Energy consumption is projected to increase 56% by 2040, and fossil fuels are expected to provide almost 80% of the world’s energy during that time, according to the US Energy Information Administration. With ice melt in the Arctic opening up navigable waters for longer periods each year, the region offers increasing opportunities for business ventures in the oil and gas industries and shipping. The Arctic has substantial hydrocarbon reserves. Traversing its waters would also yield faster shipping routes. But the area is subject to harsh and unpredictable weather and has a unique ecosystem. So any development there must be analyzed for risks and vulnerabilities while safeguarding life, property, and the environment.
Restrictions in the Arctic
The map details the potential limitations of future Arctic activities, such as development and transport. Data in The Arctic Risk Map includes the seasonal distribution of ice, meteorological and oceanographic conditions, sea ice concentrations, biological assets, shipping traffic, and oil and gas resources. This scientific data comes from numerous predictive climate and oceanographic models from organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Union’s COPERNICUS program, and the Computational and Information Systems Laboratory (CISL) of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
An Environmental Vulnerability Index
As shorelines and channels acquire less ice, Arctic animals become more vulnerable to various ventures that encroach on their territories. Walrus, polar bears, seals, belugas, and narwhals are all Arctic dwellers—along with many other species that are threatened or on the verge of becoming threatened because of changes in their environment.
The Arctic Risk Map includes data on where fish, mammals, and seabirds breed, feed, live, and migrate. The map is broken into 17 Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs), a decades-old concept that the Arctic Council adopted to encourage an ecosystem-based approach to management in the region. The Arctic Risk Map‘s environmental vulnerability index combines wildlife data with a map of the LMEs to let users see how external factors, such as oil spills, would affect these species and their habitats. It also shows where shipping lanes and wildlife habitats increasingly overlap.