Submission by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) to the Environment Audit Committee’s Inquiry on Arctic Sustainability - New policy for Arctic
A new policy framework for the Arctic
Our society has become very dependent both on a stable climate for crop production and on a stable sea level for maintaining fertile estuarine land and huge low-lying conurbations. The effects of climate system disruption and multiple bread-basket failure would be amplified by socio-political feedbacks to aggravate the situation, making widespread famine and mass migration (or attempted migration) almost inevitable. The cost of defending against sea level rise of half a metre or more would be prohibitive.
The risks from Arctic meltdown are so high that this meltdown must be prevented on any reasonable precautionary principle. As a matter of risk management, the banking and insurance industries should join with government to ensure there is funding to make climate restoration a profitable and successful business.
A significant pro-active response is demanded from the international community. What should the UK do in these demanding circumstances, when the US can no longer be relied upon to take climate change seriously? Fortunately the UK has considerable scientific credibility in these matters. It also has outstanding technical and engineering expertise. The following actions are proposed, with as much as possible in parallel:
- a climate restoration plan should be quickly agreed by a multi-disciplinary group of experts, recognising the enormity of the crisis facing us all;
- relevant processes and timescales should be quantified, to add detail to the plan;
- the crisis should be acknowledged by government, preferably in a joint statement with a number of other governments to underpin credibility and demonstrate a collaborative spirit;
- a programme of public education should be initiated, to explain the situation and what is being done about it;
- restoration of the Arctic and its albedo should be made a top priority for research, development, modelling and monitoring;
- there should be a cessation of all exploitation of the Arctic which might jeopardise restoration;
- there should be support for fast-track pilot projects to demonstrate appropriate technology;
- business should be informed of investment opportunities;
- funding avenues should be found, especially through the fossil fuel industry, for developing new technologies and for scaling up production and deployment of selected technologies, as necessary to ensure success through the profit motive.
A key factor in climate restoration is how much cooling power will be required to reverse the warming effect of processes in progress, especially the albedo loss due to retreat of snow and ice. It is estimated that current albedo loss is equivalent to a globally averaged 0.5 watts per square metre, which, multiplied by the area of the planet, gives a current heating power of 0.25 petawatts focussed in the Arctic. But if the sea ice disappears during summer, this could quadruple to 1 petawatt. However this albedo loss will be mostly offset by increased cooling from thermal radiation, as open water radiates more effectively than sea ice. The offset value is unknown, and must be an important consideration for research as it is critical for quantifying intervention parameters.
Chair Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG)
Submitted on behalf of AMEG, 2017-04-24
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