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The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Arctic peril

Arctic peril

Credit: sxc.hu

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The Arctic is the leading indicator of global warming. Nowhere are the implications of the climate crisis more visible than in the Arctic.

Associated Press reports that carbon emissions in the Arctic have reached the troubling milestone of more than 400 parts per million (ppm) in the atmosphere. Years ago, it passed the 350 ppm mark. At the time, scientists said that was the highest safe level for carbon dioxide. It now stands globally at 395 ppm. So far, only the Arctic has reached that 400 level, but the rest of the world will follow soon. As reported here, it’s likely to trigger a domino effect leading to increased odds of severe winter weather outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere. We can expect to see severe winters and snow.

What makes it more complicated is that the melting ice is attracting various powers looking for oil. More resources will be discovered with the melting ice. Thinning polar ice means more sea traffic through the Arctic. We can expect more territorial claims to an area that could contain as much as 20 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil and natural gas reserves The US is considering giving Royal Dutch Shell to explore for oil in the Arctic.

At the same time, military activities have increased as major oil companies step up Arctic exploration and border nations push territorial and commercial interests. CNN reports: “Now, one of the coldest places on Earth is heating up as nuclear submarines, Aegis-class frigates, strategic bombers and a new generation of icebreakers are resuming operations there. Just how much oil and natural gas is under the Arctic ice? The Arctic is home to approximately 90 billion barrels of undiscovered but recoverable oil, according to a 2008 study by the U.S. Geological Survey. And preliminary estimates are that one-third of the world's natural gas may be harbored in the Arctic ice. But that's not all that's up for grabs. The Arctic also contains rich mineral deposits. Canada, which was not historically a diamond-producing nation, is now the third-largest diamond producer in the world. If the global warming trend continues as many scientists project it to, it is likely that more and more resources will be discovered as the ice melts further. Who are the countries competing for resources? The United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden and Finland all stake a claim to a portion of the Arctic. These countries make up the Arctic Council, a diplomatic forum designed to mediate disputes on Arctic issues.”

The Guardian cites a report from the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions warning that the meltdown could be leading to a new cold war, particularly with a recent IMF report on peak oil warning that the price of oil is likely to double from today's price of $110 a barrel by the end of the decade.

And it’s not just oil. The world’s largest steel producer ArcelorMittal is planning to build a $5.6 million mega-mine in the region. The melting ice will make that mine viable.

With the prospect of a new cold war, the enemy is not Russia, it’s global warming.

Greenpeace, the European Renewable Energy Council and the Global Wind Energy Council have released a road map to save the Arctic. The roadmap tackles global warming with more investment in renewable energy technologies to provide more than 90 per cent of global electricity and heating, and more than 70 per cent of transportation.

Watch this space. The Arctic is likely to grab more of the world’s attention as we confront climate change.