Taking a closer look at the full costs of energy acquisition and dissipation
Isn't BP or another oil firm requesting permission for deep sea drilling to resume? Perhaps the fact that the deep sea spill impact was thought to be much less than it actually was is being used to support their request. Regardless, I hope this data is used to create stricter conservation policies that not only prevents deep sea oil drilling but also is used to protect cetaceans because they are very important organisms with low population replacement rates.
The trouble here must be with the initial researchers. What matter is it that they chose to count only those dead that we find? Well, consider this: during a natural disaster where hundreds or thousands of people do not survive, what are we usually told? There are X dead and X missing. That's because we haven't found them all!! How would that be any different with whales and dolphins? Especially considering that we aren't actively looking for them with search teams and dogs? I wonder who truly funded the first study.
This article shows an interesting method of understating the damages of the oil spill. Like Morten's example, what about those animals that are missing. The researchers should have made clearer the limitation of their estimations, and not make such an implausible assumption. Hopefully future research can find a good estimate for the multiplier to better measure the biological damages caused by the spill, which can reinforce future policy implementation.
Morten makes a good point that where the funding came from for the first study is essential. They clearly had an agenda and found only what they were trying to find, which is that the oil spill did not cause much environmental harm. The fact that anybody recognized that first study as legitimate is astounding.
The people who did the initial death toll estimation from the oil spill were way off. How could they assume that all the carcasses could have been recovered? Under estimating the death toll by up to 98% is insane. The whale and dolphin population clearly suffered much more from the BP oil spill than anyone knew. Also, these species have been struggling in the past due to the fishing industry and loss of habitat. BP should be held accountable for this damage. These populations need help replacing the massive loss of life from this event.
Any kind of study where a sample is taken from a population has to have the data analyzed appropriately. This study only found so many carcasses and leaves a lot of uncertainty to the true death toll. It seems impossible for that this study was taken seriously without considering the statistical chance of this number being the entire population. Like most studies, there is not “full participation” and the data has to project beyond its limits to make an accurate estimation of the true effects that occurred.
It is definitely hard to believe that the largest oil spill in U.S history only killed 101 cetaceans. There is just too much uncertainty to accurately estimate this number in such a vast amount of water. I definitely think that they need to create a better model to estimate the number of deaths that occur in any kind of disaster. Because they are reporting only 101 deaths, BP probably won't have to pay as much for the damage that they have done. Hopefully the government will hire some better scientists to counter what BP is claiming.
A better method for estimating the death toll would be to compare the population after the spill to the post-spill population. This assumes of course that marine biologist had been keeping up with the population count. If they had been, all they would need to do after the spill is use the same counting method to compare the populations. This method would be tried and true statistical sampling (i.e. catch and tag a bunch of dolphins, release them, and then catch a bunch again and see how many have tags), so that the results are scientifically accurate.
There should be more strict guidelines for reporting damages beyond the number of carcasses retrieved. I was surprised to learn that the true death toll for whales could be 50 times to reported amount. Alternative researchers could perhaps find a better way to assess the damages of the oil spill. Activists will have a harder time making claims if they cannot get an accurate account of the damage, also it will be harder for people to help the marine life in the gulf recover if we cannot fully understand the extent of the problems.
Clearly there is something wrong with the initial researchers’ methods if the way they calculate a death toll for such a large-scale disaster is according to the number of carcasses found, especially now that new research shows that estimates could have been as much as 50x lower than the actual numbers. This margin of error is completely unacceptable, and makes me think how much the researchers underestimated the other ecological impacts associated with the spill or with any other similar disaster. We could be in a lot more trouble than we expect if these are the error bars that we have to work with.
The reality of the world is that many people don’t believe what they can’t see, and don’t acknowledge what they can’t find. In any situation where there are casualties, estimates will come from those who will only acknowledge the physical body count and from those who project beyond that using a biological population estimator, with the answer usually somewhere in between. The ocean is a particularly mystifying and impenetrable place for this kind of research, and to say that only the carcasses you find are the effects of a disaster of that magnitude seems astonishingly uninformed. The obvious course of action is to develop an estimator that can accurately assess the damage caused, because, unfortunately for the whale and dolphin populations, they don’t have a voice that can notify authorities of missing members of their population. But even if one could find the exact number of cetaceans that were killed, what’s the cost of a whale, and for how much should BP be held accountable?
They definitely dropped the ball when estimating the death toll. Fifty times more casualties than initially thought is a little outrageous. This indicates an even larger problem, though – we can’t truly calculate the costs of these types of disasters. In the article, they actually said the initial environmental damage estimates were modest because of the number of carcasses recovered. It was the largest oil spill in US history; how could you expect it to not have a large toll on the wildlife? This highlights the risks of these types of drilling activities. We might never know how much damage they cause. Should we care that thousands of animals die, as long as we still get our oil? We have to decide if maintaining or increasing our energy consumption is worth these kinds of disasters.
Post a Comment