Wednesday, June 13

Arctic Melt: The New Cold War



                                        This article was first published in King's Tribune.








   There isn't going to be a shooting war for Arctic resources just yet.


  Major powers like the the US, China and Russia are still waiting for the Arctic ice to hurry up and melt away. And that process is moving along at a pace that makes the average environmentalist want to sign yet another petition during Nat Geo Channel commercial breaks and bong hits. The Arctic is said to have up to 25% of the world’s oil and gas sitting like Inca gold under all that pesky ice and, with current global oil production maxed out and prices rising fast, the North Pole sure has the potential to be proxy resource war central in the increasingly tense 21st century.

  In 2007, the Russians planted a titanium flag on the seabed under the polar ice which was a pretty ballsy move ripped straight out of the 16th century when European powers had a habit of sailing to foreign shores and planting flags on valuable shit they didn’t own. That flag move was designed by Putin to tell Canada, the US, Denmark and Norway (who all claim a piece of the Arctic action) that the Russian claim theoretically extends all the way to the Pole. Naturally, this pissed off everyone and sets the stage for a Cold War Part II later on this century.

  Another fun thing about the melting ice is the profitable new shipping routes that are opening up. The famed “Northeast Passage” is a handy shortcut from Europe to Asia that bypasses the Suez Canal and becomes ice-free every summer. Lately, that shipping lane along the northern Russian coast is becoming increasingly viable even in winter. The Russians like this because it would mean cheaper export routes for Russian oil tankers to burgeoning energy hungry soon-to-be superpower, China. The Russians recently exported 60,000 tons of oil products to China via northern Siberia on the vessel, Perseverance. A trial voyage for sure, but a whole lot cheaper than building a pipeline to China.

  Meanwhile, the US is engaged in proxy resource war in Middle East deserts and sniffing at regime change in Iran and the opening of the third largest oil field on the planet to sleazy Western oil companies. The Russians and Chinese are playing a longer game here on the global energy chessboard. While blocking concerted action at the UN against Iran and Syria (stymying Western attempts at energy field access in Persia), they see a future multi polar world of more balanced rival powers (as the US loses it singular super power perch) and the ending of US hegemony on global energy supply.

  This sure is an interesting time if you’re interested in how the 21st century will play out.





  The retreating Arctic ice shelf is putting a smaller and much ignored part of the planet into the global spotlight. Ground zero for global resource scrambles in the Arctic right now is Greenland. Nominally a Danish ‘protectorate’ (code speak for Copenhagen owns all your shit), the US has been floating the idea of ‘independence’ for that Euro centric island. This would be handy for US oil and mining corporations to skirt pesky European environmental laws that say you have to clean up the mess after you’re done strip mining. Preliminary reports from the soggy permafrost in Greenland reveal uranium, diamonds, gold and rare earth metals packed under the retreating glaciers and those rare earths are in high demand too since 90% of existing supply comes from a single mine in China. Those rare earths get crammed into plasma TVs and i-Pads and the Chinese have been restricting exports, which are subtle opening salvos in the proxy resource wars that will dominate the 21st century.

  The Greenlanders recently retracted laws governing the digging up of radioactive elements on their soil and decided spilling gamma waves into igloos for cash was a deal they could live with. This has attracted the usual swarm of sleazy corporations looking for mining rights. Fun thing is, these corps represent US, Russian and Chinese mining interests with a host of smaller countries like Canada, Australia, Norway and Finland looking for a piece of the action too. Everyone wants access to the last  non-raped piece of real estate on the planet. Sure, the polar bears won’t like it but let’s face it; polar bears are assholes. They'll just have to make do with shitty zoo swimming pools and dancing for fat fucks on cellphone vids.

   Will there be shooting over these resources anytime soon?

   Nope.

   Climate change still has some work to do to melt away those last bits of polar habitat that'll make the region viable for free-for-all energy and commodity extraction. But if we fast-forward to say 2020, shit starts to get interesting. By then, it'll have fully sunken in to us dumb upright apes that economic growth on a planet is finite and tied to energy supply. Nobody's going to be particularly happy about this. Especially in rich countries where we will get to learn the hard way that the plastic bottle that contains the Coca Cola is actually worth more in real terms than the shitty sugar water inside. When that truth comes down the pipe, along with $200 barrel oil, food price increases and shittier lives, it's going to be somebody's fault. In Western countries, that'll probably mean the Chinese and Russians.

   That's where the seeds of future resource wars will get sown.

   Wars always start with angry people. People who get angry blowing their paychecks on fuel and food and not having enough left over for a new plasma screen. This has been going on ever since some hunter-gatherer tribe killed the last mammoth in the valley and pissed off all the other tribes who also needed new fur coats too. Truth is, despite the dystopian sci fi consumertopia we're all living in today, not too much has changed. We've got satellites and i-phones but we're still dumb upright apes when it comes to killing people who try to take our shit. Killing each other for resources is a proven strategy and civilization is just a thin veneer pasted on top of four million years of naked raw survival. When lower living standards peel that veneer away, shit will get interesting fast. And by interesting I mean war. Thing is, future resource wars are going to go global fast because every tribe is going to want a piece of the last mammoth left in the valley.

   Will the Arctic be worth fighting over?

   Sure.

   The Russians have already started beefing up their Northern Fleet and, I shit you not, have begun building a prototype floating nuclear power station to power undersea drilling. That’s sure to make environmentalists shit bricks. The Norwegians just inked a deal with the US for 52 new F-35 multi role stealth fighters which is a $10.5 billion order and gigantic when you consider Norway’s tiny population. It reeks of a ballsy ambition to stake a claim for some Polar resources but then that’s typical of the Nordics. If the shooting ever starts they’ll be looking at a Finn style rerun of the Winter War in 1939 when the tiny Finns bloodied the Red Army’s nose.

   The Canadians too are gearing up for some possible pew-pew.

   In October, the Canadian Navy announced a $25 billion order for 23 new combat vessels of various types aimed at patrolling the Northwest passage, shipping lanes in the Canadian Arctic that are opening up to maritime trade again due to melting ice. Canada has been running Arctic military exercises every year since 2006 (Operation Nanook) designed to warn the Russkis to keep their filthy titanium flags off Canada’s sea floor.






   The US of course is well positioned to defend any Arctic claim. In addition to a defense budget larger than the next ten countries combined, the US has 50 nuclear attack subs that have been lurking under the Arctic ice for decades and it’s hard to see them being over whelmed in any future resource war.

   But here’s where we come to the fun part.

   In an increasingly nuclear-armed world, are limited resource wars even possible without escalating to full on WWIII take-us-back-to-the-Stone Age action? That sure is an interesting question for the 21st century and the fun thing about nukes themselves. They're really only useful when they never get used. In fact, nukes are the greatest peace keeping weapons ever invented.

   Global power since WWII has been primarily economic and “soft”. Having aircraft carriers and stealth bombers is useful but not game winning when you consider that once a nuclear armed power starts losing a conventional war it’s time to press the big red button of win and sort out WWIV with sticks and stones. Nukes were the mutually assured destruction glue that kept the Cold War from ever turning into a shooting contest. The US and Russia fought through proxies and kept warfare on the down low. But will this paradigm endure once oil production peaks and prices increase to the point where the era of cheap energy ends?

   Right now nukes mean there can be no winner and that has made leaders realize that it is better to trade than conquer. Global communication means there are no ideological divisions right now; every nation is money grabbing capitalist pig and that works pretty well for everything but the planet. As planet conditions change and make human populations more costly to sustain, it sure raises some interesting questions.

  Do we get to stage where desperation creeps in?

  Sometime later this century, a major power may have to make a move on some energy, water, or sea lane because failing to do so would result in a collapse of the state anyway; so war and nuke escalation events further down the road are not impossible the way they are now. Resource shortages later this century are the type of things that result in paradigm shifts. Sure, China right now is happy exporting plastic shit, Russia is having a lulz fest squeezing European natural gas supply and the Americans are having a field day running around ME deserts securing future oil supply. But this kind of status quo has a sell by date and that's coming pretty damn soon.

   It's a scary recipe for the future. In fact, it’s so scary I think I’ll go sign some useless petitions and take a bong hit.

  

61 comments:

  1. "Polar bears are assholes."

    LOL. Great article as per usual WT

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  2. Amazing...as always. Can I come hang with you when shit hits the fan?

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  3. Once again top article mate. And a lot of the problems outlined here tied to resource sustainability & civilisation have been voiced by Jacque Fresco and his Project Venus paradigm shift solution.

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  4. 'civilization is just a thin veneer pasted on top of four million years of naked raw survival. '

    EPIC WT right there.

    ZA

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  5. Another fantastic post by WT. I check everyday for a new article and do a little dance when I come across one.

    Cheers,
    ~J

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  6. Fair dues Wartard. Nice to see your articles spreading.

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  7. Yeah agree with everyone here. WT is probably my favourite blog. Please write more often! It's not like you have a shortage of topics......

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  8. Excellent article, albeit somewhat scary. I am interested to know why few people are talking about spreading out to other planets, I.E. Mars, as a solution for expanding populations and shrinking resources? I know it might sound crazy, but it is essentially the same as Europeans spreading to America, etc.

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    Replies
    1. At least when the Europeans got to America, America had an atmosphere.

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    2. Because that's really, seriously fucking difficult.

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    3. I think at least some of the worlds elite will be living on commercial space stations, looking down on us and laughing while we split each others heads open for the sweet nourishment inside... after the inevitable fall that is... in history when a state collapses the elite take as much as they can and jump ship, those who stay usually get blamed for the mess and then don't live long enough to explain themselves... or maybe I am just saying this because I am stoned and only recently watched WALL-E

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  9. This is my first time to comment here even if I've been a faithful reader since 2011. This is excellent stuff.

    I'm glad somebody had the balls and insight to finally write about the trouble brewing in the North Pole.

    Thanxxx a lot WarTard and keep 'em coming.

    PS: Please write a story about Central Asia sometime..y'know, the 'stans?

    Cheers from the Philippines

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  10. Fun article as usual Wartard.

    You could make the end of the world entertaining

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  11. "...since 90% of existing supply comes from a single mine in China"

    Do you have any source for that claim? I've done a little google-fu but I've found nothing to confirm this. 90% of all rare earth mined comes from China and most of it from the Bayan Obo mining region. But all from a single mine?

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  12. Slim Pickens Missle RodeoJune 15, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    I'm loading the bong signing the petition and digging up the R.E.M.-Document disc for the end of the world as we know it and i feel fine song. The chinese are right living in interesting times is not all it is cracked up to be. Epic win post is chock full of win!

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  13. We humans are so fucked. The ecosystem goes up in flames and all we care about is the economic opportunities the fire presents.

    Entertaining and informative as usual.

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  14. Great article as always. You should consider writing something about Burma 'opening up' or Central Asia.

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  15. Why are we not looking to alternative energy sources instead of fossil fuels, instead of exhausting what little is left, or looking to annihilate each other in the race to grab the biggest share??

    Would this be a less painful but more expensive solution?

    NOTE TO WT: I'm not going all soft and turning into a tree-hugger (folks, me and WT are best pals since we were toddlers), so don't go emailing me at 3am to take the piss! HA! V8's STILL ROCK!

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    Replies
    1. WT, your Irish?

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    2. I can't wait to see you in your solar powered GTI when you're seventy RetroVagen!

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  16. Why you leave out the Arab states from the 2020 War?

    You got to agree, that by 2020 more then half the world will be Arabic and that means democracy will vote for Sharia...so will it really be Russia\America or Islamurssia\Islamerica?

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    Replies
    1. 2020 is 8 years away. The Arabs number about 350 million on a planet of 7 billion. Do you really think that Arabs are born fully grown, sexually mature, and have no less than octuplets each and every year? And even then, they wouldn't make up half the world by 2020. Not only that, but Arab doesn't mean Muslim, and Muslim doesn't mean Sharia law. Stop watching Fox.

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  17. Really interesting. It seems like sustainable energies could prevent a bunch of this. Instead of Rosie the Riveter, we would have Rosie the Recycler. Let's hope they get to where they need to be by the time they need to be. Thanks for another great article.

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  18. I hope Canada fucks shit up. But let's be honest, we probably won't. :(

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  19. "Will there be shooting over these resources anytime soon?

    Nope.

    Climate change still has some work to do to melt away those last bits of polar habitat that'll make the region viable for free-for-all energy and commodity extraction. "

    ***********************

    I wouldn't be so sure that the Arctic resource war is at least a half-decade away. Peter Wadhams, a climate researcher at Cambridge, thinks an ice-free Arctic could happen as early as next summer. If you look at the recent ice trend lines (we've lost half the summer ice since 2004, and the trend is *accelerating*), or if you look at the INSANE melt that's happening this year, or if you look at the manifold possibilities for positive-feedback (release of methane clathrates, increased carbon-forcing in the permafrost, decreased albedo from open ocean), then it's not crazy to think the ice could melt entirely even sooner.

    As in, THE ARCTIC COULD EASILY BE ICE-FREE A FEW MONTHS FROM NOW.

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    1. Thats a little sensationalist dude. Even fatalistic global warmers are more in line with current scientific consensus that there will still be a solid North Pole in 2050. That's not even the authors point here. Once the ice retreats a little more (over the next decade), new shipping routes and new exploratory drilling wells all become viable.

      And things like that are what nations consider worth fighting for.

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    2. It's not sensationalist, it's a reasonable projection based on recent trends. It's a fact that there's half as much ice in the Arctic as a decade ago, and that ice loss has been accelerating. The consensus of active Arctic scientists has became a lot more pessimistic in just the last two years because of spectacular ice loss since 2007: Now the consensus is more like 2030 for a seasonally ice-free Arctic. But the models predicting 2030 have proven far too optimistic given the last several years of data, which is why you see eminent scientists predicting a much earlier date for complete melt. Your opinion on this matters appears too be based on out-of-date information.

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  20. I think you summed it up perfectly. There is a realistic timeframe for us, Humans to be able to go out into space or we're doomed. Eventually we will run out of resources and we are increasing the world population which is also making the resources run out faster. over-populate the Earth which makes those resources run out even faster.

    You could calculate the entire resources of the planet, rate of consumption of the resources, increased population that makes the rate of consumption faster over time, add more other things I've forgot to mention and then you have a count-down to when Humans will be extinct, if they don't have the capability to live in space.

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  21. Do one about China's investment in Iranian oil wells

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  22. I'm just sad cuz your posts are less and less frequent these days

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    1. Sadly seems to be the case.
      And at the moment there seems to be a few topics for him to pick from as well.

      Delete
  23. This is a great article! Can you tell us WHY the sea ice is melting sooo fast? Do you think someone has aimed their large Alaskan energy field at it?

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  24. Wow - Almost two months without a post - I hope the American Mind Police didn't finally come and take Wartard away.

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  25. Does anybody else religiously check this site, and is incredibly disappointed when its not updated?

    What the hell happened man? Seriously have you finally been dragged off to guantanamo bay for your transgressions against the state, and are currently on your knees, with an orange suit and black hood over your head, awaiting water boarding?

    COME BACK TO US!

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  26. +1 on that. Missing wartard, would love to see further analysis on Syria.

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  27. Pls Wartard, may i have another?

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  28. There's so much going on, and I would really like to see WT talk about some of them, as was mentioned China's flexing, Russia's recent commitment to spent $720 bln on their military, militarised countries in the ME from these uprisings, as well some recent story about Venezuela training a gorilla army ...etc.
    So really, we need WT to put things in perspective :)

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  29. Surely, WarTard shall deliver.

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  30. RIP Wartard's Blog, 0ct 29, 2010 - June 13, 2012
    I don't get it, you finally get something published and then you stop?

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  31. I have a feeling he is still around. In fact, I know he is. I hid a microphone behind his toilet. FYI, he needs to eat more fiber.

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  32. breaking my heart wartard

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    1. Wartard! Are you still alive man? If you're done with the blog you should at least give us a proper Dear John post. We deserve that much.

      Delete
  33. Wartard! Are you still alive man? If you're done with the blog you should at least give us a proper Dear John post. We deserve that much.

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  34. Where you at nigga?

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  35. I say we spam the comments in protest!

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  36. FEEL OUR WRATH!!!

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  37. WHAT TO WE WANT?

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  38. WHEN DO WE WANT IT?

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  39. NO WARTARD! NO PEACE!

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  40. WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP!

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  41. Strangers, commenters, Romans, lend me your bandwith!

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  42. Hey I just read you, and this is crazy. But I love your blog, so update it maybe?

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  43. Back the fuck off peeps, the guy is in the fucking Ecuadorian embassy.

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  44. Just look what has happened to your blog during your absence. Hos, junkies, drug dealers, murders, they've taken over what once was a nice safe blog. It looks like fuckin South central out here Wartard. This online community has fallen in to neglect and despair and it's a pot getting close to boiling over. You're gonna have a full scale riot on your hands soon...

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  45. Please stop spamming- your humor is lame

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  46. Most of the spamming comments are removed, did you notice that?

    I think he's still around, peeps ;)

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  47. Once again top article mate. And a lot of the problems outlined here tied to resource sustainability & civilisation have been voiced by Jacque Fresco and his Project Venus paradigm shift solution. water well drilling in alberta

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