Warming twice as fast as the rest of our world, the Arctic region has become a climate change hotspot. Given the profound ramifications for ecosystems and societies across the region and worldwide, the rapid (from an Earth history perspective) warming taking place in the Arctic has scientists, governments, environmentalists and public interest groups concerned, as well as focused on trying to better monitor and understand the environmental changes taking place, and develop sustainable development plans based on climate change mitigation and adaptation.
A warming Arctic also has oil and gas companies chomping at the bit to delve the depths of Arctic seas and continental land masses in their never ending search for the next giant or super giant oil and gas reservoir. Shell, in particular, has been especially determined in its Arctic oil and gas exploration efforts, spending some $4.5 billion and counting to obtain the rights and government permits necessary to carry out exploratory drilling programs in the Arctic.
What Shell and other oil and gas industry businesses see as a potential economic bonanza, other see as one of, if not the biggest, existential threats to the sustainability of ecosystems and societies worldwide. Enacting international fossil fuel reduction targets to curb carbon emissions and limit global warming to the 2º Celsius tipping point determined by the world’s leading climate scientists would mean that 60 to 80 percent of coal, oil and natural gas reserves of 200 public fossil fuel companies would have to be left in the ground, according to a study conducted by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and London School of Economics’ climate change researchers.
Averting an Arctic climate change “Death Spiral”
Burning what already exists in terms of proven and oil and gas reserves will all but certainly lock in a warming in global mean temperatures and bring on potentially devastating results, the international community of climate scientists has informed us.
There’s little doubt realization of such a scenario would result in destruction and death on a large scale. Reducing such an occurrence down to dollars and cents, researchers at Cambridge and Erasmus University calculated that the cost of a 50-gigatonne release of methane from melting Arctic region permafrost would cost the global economy as much as $60 trillion over coming decades.
Looking to thwart Shell’s ongoing efforts to explore for oil and gas in the Arctic, Greenpeace has launched “Save the Arctic,” an online campaign to lobby local, national and international leaders to declare the region around the North Pole a global sanctuary, off limits to offshore drilling for oil and gas and other destructive, extractive industry.
“In the last 30 years, we’ve lost as much as three-quarters of the floating sea ice cover at the top of the world. The volume of that sea ice measured by satellites in the summer, when it reaches its smallest, has shrunk so fast that scientists say it’s now in a ‘death spiral’,” Greenpeace states on the Save the Arctic website.
“For over 800,000 years, ice has been a permanent feature of the Arctic ocean. It’s melting because of our use of dirty fossil fuel energy, and in the near future it could be ice free for the first time since humans walked the Earth. This would be not only devastating for the people, polar bears, narwhals, walruses and other species that live there – but for the rest of us too.”
Global Warming is Real has done, and continues to do, a good deal of reporting on climate change and the Arctic. You can check out our most recent content here, as well as search our archives or click on the associated content links following each article for more.
Featured image credit: U.S. Geological Survey, courtesy flickr