Arctic Dialectics: Ample Opportunities for Extraction or Transition to Clean Energy?


Credit: Westerhold et al., CENOGRID

The Arctic is one of the most fossil fuel affluent areas in the world that have yet to be discovered and exploited. In parallel, we’re now facing increasing needs for safety and security as a result of increasing transportation across the Arctic.

These points are stipulated in recently released World Energy Outlook, not directly the Arctic-related, but expected “fossil fuels peak by 2030” coupled with the gloomy scenarios because of industrial dependence on coal, oil and natural gas energy, etc. which is far from enough to reach global climate goals.

To be honest, the document, conveyed by the International Energy Agency, looks like a multi-layer cake where all the ingredients are mixed. Hydropower, nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture, utilisation and storage, bioenergy, hydrogen and ammonia…

Contrasting renewables to fossil fuels is incorrect, neither practically nor even theoretically, since building a system which suggests using all available energy resources equally will not be tolerated. This approach is destructive for humanity. Experts may continue to voice forecasts about “more than 6 million premature deaths a year” because of energy sector and polluted atmosphere, BUT how many premature deaths are caused by energy shortages? Nearly one-seventh of the world's population doesn’t have access to electricity. The amount of emissions can be reduced by modernizing existing electricity generating capacities.

The availability of energy allows vaccines to be safely stored, crops to be refrigerated, and children to have the electricity available to study at night. All of these benefits - and many others - cannot happen without improving electricity access, which still involves fossil fuel.

Another point that the document argues for is that “the global average surface temperature is already around 1.2 °C above pre‑industrial levels, prompting heatwaves and other extreme weather events, and greenhouse gas emissions have not yet peaked”. 

The climate changes regardless of whether humans influence it or not. And if the way of self-restraints and limitations in energy consumption is the only suggestion that the world leaders can offer humanity so that climate change does not have such a strong impact on the global economy and human life, then we have some bad news. Over the last millennium, the humanity witnessed both the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA). Climate change is inevitable in any case. Do any politicians propose measures to adapt to climate change or call for the development of such measures? Within world climate summits, everyone is fighting extremely hard to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. Sometimes respected politicians claim that in resource-rich countries, such as Russia or Canada, achieving substantive environmental reform is incompatible with the potential profits of oil and natural gas corporations.. Plus, more investments in clean energy are required.

The conclusion is that we should be wary of hyperbolic predictions and ponder real measures through cooperation and expertise.

The editorial board of The Arctic Century