Under the ice there are a lot of untapped gas reserves and new shipping routes may pose a pretty penny. Depth analysis now shows that effects of a less polar ice may be higher than thought, not only for the animals that see their habitats disappear, but also for the portfolio.
Research shows that we are often too short to go through the curve in assessing the effects of global warming in the far north. According to Gail Whiteman of the Erasmus University Rotterdam we look at the calculation of potential economic profit. If we do that, as he wrote last week in Nature, it appears to be the money profit by tapping new sources of natural gas and the opening of shipping routes not worth the economic loss caused by the melting of the polar ice caps.
There are thirteen percent of the untapped oil reserves under the ice. Furthermore, new shipping lanes regional trade can give a big boost. The United States already thinks one step further including Lloyd’s and Total projects with the U.S. government investigation into the environmental impact of possible harvesting.
According to Whiteman, the local impact on the environment is well studied, but scientists and policy makers forget to look at the overall picture. The worst effects of the melting of the polar ice will have in essence to feel on a global scale. Whiteman predicts that the melting of the ice in the Arctic will set off a chain reaction that will have serious global consequences also in the economic field.
This is a giant methane stock of less than 50 gigatons which is provisionally still trapped under the permafrost of the East Siberian Sea. In the near future, the methane from its natural repository will escape to the atmosphere. It is disastrous because methane, like CO2, is a greenhouse gas. Probably the escape will take over a period of several decades in the permafrost, but it is equally possible that it happens very suddenly.
How long it will take for the 50 gigatons of all greenhouse gas is added in our atmosphere, it is not so important, but what about the consequences. The ice that melts already at record speeds will disappear even faster. And that’s not all: the decline of the ice is not only a consequence of global warming, but also a cause. The white layer of frozen water reflected namely a lot of energy from the sun. Less ice means less reflection, which is an even more rapid decline of the polar ice means.
The further warming and exploiting the Arctic are so disastrous for the environment there. But the consequences of an (almost) ice-free Arctic will be felt around the world, and will be a lot of ecological and economic damage entailed. First of all, an enormous amount of melt water will be pushed into the oceans. That water changes the composition of the oceans. Currents and also water circulations changes in this weather system. Above sea level, high in the atmosphere, changes of the Arctic Climate lead to a shift of the jet stream. It was so cold in Europe this winter and summer took a long time. The reason was due to a change in the jet stream.
All these factors lead to climatic problems that countries worldwide have to guard against. Small island states and coastal cities like New York will have to look at the higher sea level. Europe and protecting U.S. will have to survive in extreme winters and abnormal spring weather. Third World countries will absorb most of the blow. A climate change will reduce the yield of crops, extreme weather conditions and health problems will increase.
If we want to live like today, there is a price tag attached for altered climatic conditions. Very conservative estimate is according to Whiteman 60 trillion. In comparison, the entire world economy was in 2012 a turnover of 70 billion dollars. Therefore it is best to invest in a reduction of global warming, especially in the Arctic. New shipping routes and easily accessible oil do not outweigh the consequences of a further warming of the Arctic.
Disturbed food is a good idea for the animals that call back them to their Arctic home. The presence of ice holds a complex and fragile ecosystem. The dependence of sea ice is not limited to animals that spend much of their lives on the ice floes. A simple example: the ice determines the temperature of the water underneath. When the ice melts earlier algae and plankton will formerly multiply. However, fish such as Arctic cod are dependent on small aquatic animals for their food. The water mammal must go beyond search, find less food, and along the way has to fight against the killer with all its consequences.
Hybrid polar bear
Also for the polar bear, it does not look good. If the sea is shorter frozen, the bear has less time to go in search of food, leaving him weakened. Therefore diving polar bears on the mainland will be attracted to their cousins: the grizzly bears. By mating with grizzly’s, the kind hybridize over time, which means the disappearance of the white polar bear in practice. Not only the polar bear mixes with other species, consequently there will be only seven remain of fourteen different types.
Consequences of global warming are not limited to animals directly on or under the ice life. Many species, such as the arctic fox and the wolf, living in Greenland and Canada will be affected. There they are isolated during the summer, but they can look each other over the ice during the winter.
Ice does not get all species together, for some it can be a barrier. Several oriental marine mammals are separated from their Western equivalents due to the ice. When the separation disappears, the animals come together and that is not necessarily good news. Oriental animals are not capable of withstanding these western germs and vice versa. That infection with new diseases will be more common in marine mammals.
Of all these problems we are already seeing the first signs of the further disappearance of the Arctic ice, the severity increases. The melting of the ice is not to say that no more lives will suddenly lost in northern waters, but if the defrost process is without prejudice to its course, many animals, including the iconic polar bear, will disappear forever.