Arctic Insecurity

The American Security Project is worried. The Arctic ice cap is disappearing. They see five broad risks, outlined in their recent report:

  1. ASPEnergy Exploration: safely extracting the newly opened resources
  2. Territorial Disputes and the Law of the Sea: fighting with the Russians about who owns the resources
  3. Infrastructure for Emergency Response: dealing with catastrophic environmental risks, like oil spills
  4. American Military Presence: fighting with the Russians in general
  5. Managing the U.S. Presence on the Arctic Council: retaining American influence

But ASP missed the biggest risk: the disappearance of the ice cap itself.

That’ll totally queer seasonal atmospheric circulation patterns. Once the hub of the jet stream’s circulation inverts from heat reflector to heat amplifier, the jet stream and its associated seasonal highs and lows will carom all over the Northern Hemisphere, looking for a new equilibrium.  What will that do to rainfall patterns that agriculture depends on?

The security implications of a sudden world-wide food shortage are almost unimaginable: economic collapse, swarming refugees, aid triage, and resentment over any related decision-making, which is almost bound to be unfair, that will drive extreme social unrest. When people realize that weather instability will only get worse as time goes on, desperation and panic will jump into the mix, leading to less considered and more reactive decision-making. It’s a self-feeding downward spiral.

As heat is added to the atmosphere, and disproportionately in the Arctic, jet stream instability is already starting to propagate.

The ASP is urging us to plan to manage the open Arctic. That’s a bit like planning to manage land disputes as the growing sinkhole swallows the house.

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Filed under Agriculture, Climate Change, Ice Cap

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