For Immediate Release

August 9, 2006

Contact: Chad Kister (740) 707-4110 or or

Climate Change part of cause of corroding pipes

            In addition to BP's negligence, climate change has increased corrosion by changing the weather on the North Slope of Alaska, from being entirely frozen about two thirds of the year in 1970 to being frozen a third of the year now.

            This massive change, which has been well documented by scientists, is a significant cause of increased corrosion on the North Slope of Alaska.

            For decades, oil companies could only drive out on the open tundra when the permafrost was frozen 12 inches deep and there was 6 inches of snow, in order to supposedly protect the tundra from damage (much damage still was caused). 

            In 1970, more than 200 days met this criteria.  Only 103 days met this criteria in 2002.  Cox news reported in 2003, “global warming, which most climate experts blame mainly on large-scale burning of fossil fuels, is interfering with efforts in Alaska to discover yet more oil.”

            The State of Alaska recently changed its criteria for allowing activity on the tundra – to allow much more damage to the tundra by opening exploration when there is less protection by snow and frozen ground.  A December 3, 2004 press release by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources admitted that the reason that they had to make this change was because of “warming weather.”

            Even before, the criteria did not protect the tundra.  It still caused massive ruts that last for decades, along with more than 550 oil spills a year across the North Slope of Alaska.

            The new criteria allow much more damage.  Kister has a chapter on this, ‘Interference With Oil Exploration’ in his second book, Arctic Melting (going into its second edition this summer).  It was published in 2005 by Common Courage Press.

            The reason for the major changes seen in Alaska is that much of the year, average temperatures hover around freezing.  Decades ago, this was below freezing for most of the year.  With a 5-7 degree increase in average Arctic temperatures over the last 3 decades, it has tipped the balance to where most of the time the area is thawed.

            In addition to these impacts, this change is melting the permafrost, making the support for everything, from pipelines to Inupiat buildings weaker.  Pipelines and buildings are collapsing into the melting permafrost.

            This melting permafrost is also releasing more and more of the massive amount of stored carbon dioxide and methane – both greenhouse gases – in the permafrost.  I witnessed a 30-foot deep sinkhole in the tundra just outside Arctic Village in 2004 (just south of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) where water cavities that had been frozen had melted.  I had been to the same spot in 1991 and 1993 and seen solid tundra.

            It was in the high 80s for days far above the Arctic Circle in the summer of 2005.

Kister is the author of Arctic Quest: Odyssey Through a Threatened Wilderness Area and Arctic Melting: How Climate Change is Destroying One of the World’s Largest Wilderness Areas, both published by Common Courage Press.  Kister is also the Producer of the 2006 film Caribou People.