There is a miraculous international agreement that aims to keep the wilds of Antarctica pristine, saying only scientific operations can be carried out there – no military or industry. This doesn’t exist for the Arctic, where dangerous oil exploration and drilling is just inviting disaster. This isn’t to say that scientists are careful and considerate Antarctic visitors, just that if you find a penguin and a polar bear in your bedroom, one’s a bit more of a concern than the other.
Have a flick through the background info at the start of Platform’s Arctic Anxiety (pdf) report to learn how we don’t know how to clean up oil spills in freezing waters, and that even if we did, there isn’t much infrastructure for that sort of thing anyway.
“Shell’s 2010 contingency plan for a Chukchi spill identifies the village of Wainwright as the marine hub for a response effort—when Wainwright (population 494) doesn’t even have a dock.”