They Know But Won't Admit: How Oil and Gas Companies are Adapting to Climate Change They Know But Won't Admit: How Oil and Gas Companies are Adapting to Climate Change
Environment

They Know But Won't Admit: How Oil and Gas Companies are Adapting to Climate Change

by Michael Cote

March 31, 2011

In one of most ironic flip-flops in environmental history, the oil and gas industry is beginning to adapt to climate change. And it's no wonder. The majority of industry's infrastructure is located in some of the most climate vulnerable regions on the planet. Nearly 75 percent of the Alaskan pipeline, for example, is built over increasingly unstable permafrost, which is now thawing under warmer temperatures. The Mackenzie Valley in Canada alone has recorded over 2,000 sink holes, rock slides, and large depressions from thawing permafrost.

The report (PDF) generated a "Global Risk Landscape," which identifies 8 areas that will impact the oil and gas industries.

To effectively adapt to climate change, the solutions offered were broad and general. IBM and Acclimatise identified several key areas of action, the bulk of which address corporate operations. First, industry should begin to assess how climate change affects individual company's business models. In other words, the consultants want the industry to internally reflect and ask, Are current plans taking account of a changed climate world? Second, can infrastructure be adapted to accommodate impacts? Engineers will need to find inexpensive solutions to protect oil and gas assets, especially if those assets lifespans are coming to an end. Finally, they consultants recommend the industry incorporate climate change science into operations. It is this last point that I find most ironic. Like the snake eating its own tail, will oil and gas realize they're their own worst enemy?

Editor's note: Michael Cote, the author of this piece, is a climate adaptation and urban planning expert, friend (and once-upon-a-time newspaper reporter) who I first met in Copenhagen before the COP15 climate talks. Over the past couple of months, I've been working with Cote to develop a regular feature for GOOD's environment hub on climate adaptation solutions from around the world. We're still working on a title for his regular, recurring series of posts, so let us know if you have any suggestions! —Ben Jervey

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They Know But Won't Admit: How Oil and Gas Companies are Adapting to Climate Change