Deeply Concerned Chris Matthews Fears Climate Change Will 'Create Trade Routes Across the Arctic Circle!'

Appearing on fellow MSNBCer Ed Schultz's radio show yesterday, Chris Matthews waxed apocalyptic about what he believes will be a dire consequence of climate change.

Matthews told Schultz of an unidentified friend in Alaska, presumably not Sarah Palin, who warned him of what's to come from warming temperatures  (audio) --

And to say there's no issue with climate? You know, a friend of mine is talking about, she lives up in Alaska, she says we're going to be able to, maybe this is good for shipping, we're going to start having trade routes across the Arctic Circle! We're going to start having, you know what I mean?, people are going to be going to Norway in boats and we're going to have shipping lines doing it. Don't tell me we don't have a climate thing going on. There's something strange going on.

Yikes, trade routes through the Arctic! Next thing you know there'll be commerce, profits! Worse still ... boats going to Norway. Oh the humanity ...

Just what would an allegedly unfortunate outbreak of capitalism in the Far North resemble? A May 2009 National Geographic article titled "Arctic Landgrab" described the "former fishing town" in Hammerfest, Norway, home to the world's northernmost liquefied natural gas facility, Snohvit --

... I expect to see the start of production -- but it is a false start, one of many. The gas field is in the Barents Sea, 800 feet underwater, connected by 90 miles of pipes to an ultramodern plant. The plant, on a grassy island abutting the beautiful 9,400-person town, is northern Norway's largest ever industrial project. Viewed from the Hammerfest shopping mall, it is a tangle of smokestacks, lights, and tubes, backed by a fjord and a row of snowy peaks.

For now, StatoilHydro, the operator, will move gas up the pipes, process it, and export it by tanker -- half of it to Cove Point, Maryland, half to Bilbao, Spain. But soon  carbon dioxide, separated from the natural gas, will travel the other direction down the pipes: StatoilHydro will inject it into the seabed to combat global warming.  Snohvit promises to be one of the world's cleanest petroleum projects. During one test run, however,  the winds blew ash from Snohvit's flares -- chimneys burning off excess gas -- that turned cars and homes black. StatoilHydro brought in doctors to test for carcinogens and handed out reparations checks to angry residents.

It is a measure of petroleum wealth's appeal that I find only one local politician opposed to the plant: a 19-year-old from the revolutionary-socialist Red party. Snohvit pays Hammerfest $22 million a year in property taxes. The town is awash in new projects:  renovated schools, a bigger airport, a sports arena, a "full-digital," glass-walled cultural center. Strollers are  everywhere in the snow-covered streets. It is easy to forget that Hammerfest was recently a dying town, shrinking in population, the most violent place in Norway. In his bay-front office, a local official named Snorre Sundquist is circumspect about Snohvit. "People didn't like the soot," he says, "but they accepted it.

That sole Hammerfest politician opposed to Snohvit -- also a prime candidate for future MSNBC contributor.

Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts