By MARK HAMILTON
Climate change is an anti-developer’s dream. It’s a topic everyone is familiar with and it can assign dire warnings to virtually anything, because it is a prediction of the future.
Remember I asked you to develop your own filter so you can pick your experts? Before you panic, check if the source has correctly predicted anything. Nonetheless, regulations have been established that account for that fear-based future. I’ll introduce one in a bit. In the meantime, recognize this about the future. Identify and examine these last ditch arguments about development projects in Alaska.
“Well it might be alright for now, but what about the unknowable future?”
The predictions have been all wrong for generations. From the Competitive Enterprise Institute, just a few of the more flamboyantly wrong predictions:
1966: Oil gone in 10 years
1967: Dire famine by 1975
1969: Everyone will disappear in a cloud of blue steam by 1989
1970: World will use up all its natural resources by 2000
1970: Urban citizens will require gas masks by 1985
1970: Nitrogen buildup will make all land unusable
1970: Decaying pollution will kill all the fish
1970s: Killer bees!
1970: Ice Age By 2000
1970: America water rationing by 1974 and food rationing By 1980
1971: New Ice Age coming by 2020 or 2030
1972: New Ice Age by 2070
1972: Oil depleted in 20 years
1974: Space satellites show new Ice Age coming fast
1974: Another Ice Age?
1974: Ozone depletion a ‘Great Peril to Life’
1976: Scientific consensus planet cooling, famines imminent
1977: Department of Energy says oil will peak in 1990s
1978: No end in sight to 30-year cooling trend
1980: Acid rain kills life in lakes
1980: Peak oil in 2000
1988: Regional droughts (that never happened) in 1990s
1988: Temperatures in DC will hit record highs
1988: Maldive Islands will be underwater by 2018
1989: rising sea levels will obliterate nations if nothing done by 2000
1989: New York City’s West side highway underwater by 2019
1996: Peak oil in 2020
2000: Children won’t know what snow is
2002: Famine in 10 years if we don’t give up fish, meat, and dairy
2002: Peak oil in 2010
2004: Britain will be Siberia by 2024
2005: Manhattan underwater by 2015
2006: Super hurricanes!
2008: Arctic will be ice free by 2018
2008: Al Gore predicts ice-free Arctic by 2013
2009: Prince Charles says we have 96 months to save world
2009: UK Prime Minister says 50 Days to ‘Save the planet from catastrophe’
2009: Al Gore moves 2013 prediction of ice-free Arctic to 2014
2013: Arctic ice-free by 2015
2014: Only 500 days before “climate chaos”
We deal with climate every day in our lives. We can handle the future. We prepare to the best of our ability; we monitor how that preparation is doing; and we react to adjust that preparation. You do it all the time with your insurance policies, your finances, your education, your job and so forth.
In the Pebble project, the developer had excellent knowledge of the climate at the site because of the existence of the Iliamna airport about 18 miles away. The project has nearly 80 years of meteorological data.The engineering requirements for the main water collection pond are formidable.
Here is how you must design it:
First, account for the wettest 20 consecutive years at the site, then lay over that the largest snowpack in 100 years, with the assumption that it will all melt in 24 hours (that’s a bunch of heat and wind).
Add to that the largest 24-hour rainfall in the data (which you might expect in July or August). Then add additional safety (called freeboard) to the holding capacity.
This accounts for the “500-year flood” with an additional safety margin.
This is required even though the last 17 years have shown less precipitation than the average and the last 30 years have very little variance. Now, the requirement is not terribly hard to design for; it just means you will have to build a bigger containment pond than you might otherwise, and there is nothing lost having it about 1/3 full for the life of the mine.
What frustrates me a little is this simple reality; if such events happened, if you really believed they were remotely possible, to heck with the mine that by this engineering requirement would still be standing; what about the villages along the rivers in Bristol Bay? They would all be washed to the bay. So what if the mine is still standing? If these are conceivable future events, let’s begin to fortify or relocate the human beings certain to be in danger with or without a mine.
The “Pebbled” series at Must Read Alaska is authored by Mark Hamilton. After 31 years of service to this nation, Hamilton retired as a Major General with the U. S. Army in July of 1998. He served for 12 years as President of University of Alaska, and is now President Emeritus. He worked for the Pebble Partnership for three years before retiring.