Friday, August 3, 2007

Arctic wealth: Why countries are jockeying over the roof of the world, via AFP: Around a quarter of the world's oil reserves are locked up below the Arctic Ocean, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS). The Arctic floor is also home to massive gas fields which are virtually unexploited…

This tempting treasure was previously way out of reach, for the ice that swathed the ocean's surface made prospection, drilling, pumping and storage technically impossible or astronomically costly. Now, though, the icy shield is shrinking fast as atmospheric temperatures, stoked by the greenhouse effect, steadily rise.

Added to the hydrocarbon allure is the prospect of a new Northwest Passage along the roof of the world that would be open year-round to shipping, providing a lucrative short-cut between Asia and Europe

The Earth's far south, Antarctica, is a continent-sized chunk of land where human activity and national claims are regulated by an international treaty, signed in 1961 as a result of research conducted in the 1957 International Polar Year. In 2007, another International Polar Year is underway but no such accord seems in prospect for the Arctic.

Russia on Thursday said it had planted its flag on the ocean floor at the site of the North Pole, in an operation undertaken by lawmakers aboard a midget submarine that descended 4,261 metres (13,980 feet) below the surface. The expedition, ostensibly for scientific reasons, aims to establish that a tongue of seabed known as the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Russia's landmass.

…By 2040, "only a small amount of perennial sea ice" will remain along the northern coasts of Greenland and Canada in summer, the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said last December. The cause: warmer temperatures, amplified by a vicious circle that climatologists term "positive feedback." Ice reflects sunlight, but when it melts, that leaves a patch of open sea. Because sea is dark, it absorbs solar radiation, which thus leads to more ice loss.

"The polar regions are increasingly recognised as being... geopolitically and economically important (and) extremely vulnerable to current and projected climate change," the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in April.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered if the petroleum industry was aware of global warming effects going back many, many decades. If only there was some way to melt all that ice so we could get at the treasure... Too farsighted and diabolical to be considered...right?