How Bad Is the BP Spill?

Time has an interesting article by Michael Grunwald suggesting that the environmental effects of the BP spill have been exaggerated.

The Deepwater explosion was an awful tragedy for the 11 workers who died on the rig, and it’s no leak; it’s the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. It’s also inflicting serious economic and psychological damage on coastal communities that depend on tourism, fishing and drilling. But so far — while it’s important to acknowledge that the long-term potential danger is simply unknowable for an underwater event that took place just three months ago — it does not seem to be inflicting severe environmental damage. “The impacts have been much, much less than everyone feared,” says geochemist Jacqueline Michel, a federal contractor who is coordinating shoreline assessments in Louisiana.

The reality is we have sufficiently little experience with this sort of thing, so we don’t really know how bad an environmental disaster the spill is and will be — and may not for some time.  Some of the easier to measure projections may have fizzled, but the spill could still be having significant as-yet-unseen ecological effects that we do not yet understand — and may not for some time.  Still, the Grunwald article is a useful reminder that we don’t really know enough to make categorical statements about the likely ecological effects of the spill.