Arctic Melting

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

With climate change comes melting of the polar ice caps. Ice caps that maintained the temperature of the planet from the Arctic to Antarctica now threaten to profoundly transform the earth, with important repercussions in many areas. Permafrost is also melting due to the increase in temperature that comes with climate change. One of the consequences is the emission of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that likewise contributes to rising temperatures. It is estimated that Siberian permafrost, which is over 400 meters thick, dates from the Quaternary glaciations.

In his article “Arctic Geoenergy,” published in Política Exterior, 134 (April-May, 2010), Vicente López-Ibor explains why this melting and technological advances will facilitate access to Arctic energy resources and will open new navigation routes, but he underscores that the real debate should focus on the risks that this poses for the earth as a whole. "The vast marine and land areas of the Arctic region are vital and vulnerable components of the planet’s ecosystem, for their role in regulating climate worldwide ".

Although technical studies to confirm gas and oil resources are lacking for over a third of the Arctic territory, it is estimated that there is no other place on earth with the energy potential of the Arctic Polar Circle (20% of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves).

As indicated above, melting seas are progressively opening channels for navigating Arctic waters rather than using transoceanic routes, in detriment to the principal continental canals (Suez and Panama).

In a study presented at the International Seminar on Climate Change and Peace held in Barcelona on 2-3 December, 2009, Manuel Manonelles likewise examines the environmental, political and economic impact of melting glaciers in high mountain areas, which were heretofore considered perpetual snow zones. He warns that "the opening of new land and sea routes will completely change the dynamics of international trade ".

New frontiers... increased military spending. In 2008 Canada alone approved an extraordinary allocation of 6,900 million dollars to strengthen its military presence in the country’s Arctic zone.

The rise in sea levels is another now irreversible consequence of polar melting, threatening the territory of flat countries, especially islands, as well as large infrastructures (ports, refineries, airports, nuclear power plants, etc.) located at sea level. But most important are the human populations that must be relocated or protected.

In addition, it should be noted that polar melting will enable access to other presently-hidden treasures, to polymetallic nodules (for use in superconductors, new materials, etc.), which many large mining corporations yearn to exploit.

These are the real problems... and not the ones that those obsessed with the inertia of globalization seek to make us believe are the problems with worldwide stock market fluctuations, distracting citizens while selling more weapons than ever.

These are the world’s problems that demand that “the Peoples,” in the words of the Preamble to the United Nations Charter, take the reins of destiny into their hands.