Arctic ice melt and how this will affect us.

Arctic ice melts and how this will affect us.

Ice at the Arctic and the Antarctic plays an important role in regulating our climate. Ice is white, and white reflects back solar radiation, instead of absorbing it. The area of ice at the poles acts as part of the very complicated control system that our planet has to keep its climate more or less as we enjoy it now. If there were no ice at the poles the world would be a far warmer place than it is today.

A large area of ice – around 20 square kilometers, has broken away from the northern part of Ellesmere Island, which is to the west of Greenland. This was not unexpected. Eventually the ice will break down into smaller icebergs and melt, and the planet will lose a part of its control system. Scientists think that the Ellesmere ice shelf has been in situ for over 3000 years, so this is a major event. They are concerned that the rest of the ice nearby may also melt, with more drastic implications.

This event has been years in the making; the climate has not changed this summer suddenly but bit by bit the changes are creating changes in the amount of polar ice. We know that in 1906 when Robert Peary explored this area the overall size of the Ellesmere Ice Shelf was around 9000 square kilometers. Today it has broken up into smaller areas, the largest of which is the Ward Hunt Island Shelf, now 900 square kilometers.

If the climate was not warming scientists would be able to detect some ice buildup in winter, either by the ice shelf thickening or spreading in winter to contract in summer. Their research does not show any winter gain of ice. So ice melt will make our planet warmer, as well as being evidence that the planet is getting warmer.

Interestingly Arctic temperatures when measured at ground level have been rising twice as fast as other surface temperatures, and although surface temperature measurements only tell you part of what is happening climatically, it is an important part.

There will be some “advantages” of the ice melt.

It is thought that around a quarter of the world’s undiscovered oil lies under the Arctic, which is thought to hold 90 billion barrels of the stuff. The world consumes about 90 million barrels of oil a day, so the Arctic oil, which eventually will be easier to reach due to the ice melting, will only last us about three years. Those 90 billion barrels are thought to be 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, so on our best estimates today we have around 25 years worth of oil which at present is undiscovered left.

Perhaps even more important, there is even more natural gas under the Arctic than there is oil – probably around 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas and that may keep us going for fifty years or so, once it is discovered and pipe.

Unfortunately these “advantages” are somewhat of a poisoned chalice for the planet. As we consume more oil and gas using our existing technologies more and more carbon dioxide will be pumped into the air, creating a stronger and more robust greenhouse screen to hold the heat of the planet back and prevent the radiation escaping into space, as traditional global warming theory holds.

The price of oil and gas would have to increase before the drilling becomes economically viable, but the increase is thought to be only around 85%, which on recent trends looks like becoming perfectly viable.

Another advantage is that it is thought that fish will move north into the cleaner newly created sea areas, providing lucrative fishing grounds that will no doubt be over exploited.

The Arctic nations – Denmark, Canada, Russia, Norway and the United States are all busy scrambling with claims for those parts of the arctic that will be exploitable when the ice melts; they must be thinking that the ice will melt because they are spending real money on undersea surveys to establish the continental shelf’s position, land surveys and preliminary establishment of territorial claims. If only they would address the underlying cause of the ice melt with the same degree of enthusiasm and resources.

The ice melt will affect us by making the climate harder and more undesirable, releasing land which will be exploited, providing more fossil fuel energy, creating new fisheries and drawing us into conflicts over new territory. On the whole the disadvantages which are all long term are overwhelming greater than the advantages which are all short term. But humanity tends to live for the moment.




6 Responses

  1. Dear Robert, I trulty do enjoy reading your blog every day. I have learnt a tremendous amount and I have been challenged to read up on some of your positions and claims. What I would like to know is why? What is the underlying force driving you in your environmental quest? Is it a sense of responsibility toward your fellow man? Is it a love of nature? Is it profit given your stake in Genersys? The answers to four key questions drive and shape our actions in my opinion – 1 Origin (where do I come from) – 2 Purpose (why am I here)- 3 Meaning (what makes my life worthwhile) – 4 Destiny (what happens when I die) How do you answer those questions? What is your philosophy.

  2. Ryan

    How nice of you to say so.
    You’d propbaly need a physcologist to unravel all the different threads of anyon’e motivation; can I say simply all of the above, and may be more too?
    I have been trying to fiugure out my philsophy all my life; the person whose ideas have really shaped my thinking is Thoreau, a great under rated American who sumed it all up “most men live lives of quiet desparation” and inspired Ghandi’s civil disobedience.

  3. one word you are so STUPID

  4. We all going to dieeeeeeeeeeee.

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