Melting ice is causing the ocean to expand and sea levels to rise around the globe. As new fishing and transportation opportunities open up, ice-bound wildlife is losing its foothold and its habitat. And the promise of abundant new sources of oil has some countries seeing dollar signs deep beneath the Arctic Ocean, while environmental groups clamor to end our dependence on fossil fuels.
Another major concern is the ten million square kilometers of permafrost in the Arctic. Permafrost contains a mix of ice and soil, says Collins, "and when that soil thaws, it releases carbon and methane into the earth's atmosphere, and that acts to accelerate global warming."
While the Amazon and the Arctic have been seen as a bonanza for oil companies, drilling in those areas hasn't always turned out to be as profitable as they had hoped. Shell Oil recently made headlines when it pulled out of its Arctic drilling project after sinking around $7 billion into what amounted to a "dry hole." When former Mobil Oil VP Lou Allstedt looks at Shell's situation, he sees "a lot of mistakes."
Dr. Silvia Earle, who has led more than 100 undersea expeditions and spent over 7,000 hours underwater, traces her lifetime passion for science back to a childhood inquisitiveness that has never left her. Now nearing eighty, her current title is National Geographic Explorer in Residence, but "I think all kids start out as explorers," she says. "I think even all of you, whoever you are or wherever you are, you don't lose that part of being a kid, asking questions: who, what, why, where, when, how?
Former Executive Vice President, Mobil Oil Corporation; Member, Citizens Climate Lobby
Director, Climate and Ecosystem Science Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
National Geographic Explorer in Residence
President, As You Sow
Executive Director, Pacific Environment
Former Ecuador Oil Minister; Former OPEC Secretary General