What is going on in the Arctic?

The Arctic is still a cold place, but it is warming faster than any other region on Earth. Over the past 50 years, the Arctic’s temperature has risen by more than twice the global average. In 2016, the annual mean temperature in Svalbard was 6 degrees higher than normal – so we are already witnessing actual consequences of global warming to Arctic life. These rapid changes have consequences well beyond the Arctic.

NSP 08-09-2017

What Arctic change does to the world

Once Arctic warming gets going, it has two important dynamics with unpredictable effects.

  • As the Arctic warms and sea-ice and snow-cover retracts, this weakens surface reflectivity. The bare ground and open water absorb more heat from the sun and amplify warming further. This feedback is an important reason why the Arctic warms at twice the rate of the global average.
  • The Arctic permafrost is a storehouse for trapped greenhouse-gases such as methane and CO2. When the permafrost is thawing, these greenhouse-gases could be released to the atmosphere, amplifying global warming further. These secondary effects are adding unpredictability. Unpredictability in terms of consequences – but also unpredictability in terms of the pace of climate change. As we know, unpredictability means enhanced risks.

Arctic warming is accelerating

A new scientific assessment of climate change in the Arctic, by the Arctic Council’s Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), concludes that the Arctic is now shifting — rapidly and in unexpected ways — into a new state.

If we allow current trends to continue, they will have profound and accelerated impacts on ecosystems, human health and safety, industries and economies around the world. Certainly, this will also influence our security environment. Recent research indicates that this could increase risk levels not only in the Arctic, but in regions very far from the Arctic areas. This is due to the climate system – It is highly interconnected on the global scale. The Arctic region acts as a global cooling system by drawing warm ocean water from the south and cooling it down. This movement of warmer ocean waters to the north has a major influence on climate outside the Arctic; it accounts for northern Europe’s relatively mild climate, and it keeps the Tropics cooler than they would otherwise be.

The rapid melting of Arctic ice and snow is likely to weaken this global cooling system, amplifying global warming, and intensifying its consequences throughout the world.

Artic warming will amplify security risks

So while global warming is a multiplier of existing security risks and threats, the Arctic is an amplifier of global warming. Indirectly, a warmer Arctic will indeed also amplify security risks worldwide. We are seeing, and will see ever more extreme weather events. We are seeing more stress on critical ecosystems, including oceans, freshwater, and biodiversity. These changes, in turn, will have direct and indirect social, economic, political, and security effects.

Extreme weather can trigger crop failures, wildfires, energy blackouts, infrastructure breakdown, supply-chain breakdowns, migration, and infectious disease outbreaks. We can expect climate change to exacerbate current conditions: making hot, dry places hotter and drier, for example. Over the longer term, global climate change will change how and where people live, where they can produce food, as well as the diseases they face.

Science is increasingly concerned that more sudden, dramatic shifts could be possible. Such shifts in the climate or climate-linked ecosystems could have dramatic economic and ecological consequences.

Accelerated climate change

Accelerated climate change, therefore, is not only a significant risk factor in its own right – it is a factor that can interplay with and magnify other risk factors: economic, technological and demographic.

  • Economic risk – The globalised economy, the risks to free trade and the global economy are real.

The physical risks that arise from the increased frequency and severity of climate- and weather-related events that damage property and disrupt trade. The liability risks – the risks posed to companies business models by climate change. The transition risks which could result from the adjustment towards a lower-carbon economy. Changes in policy, technology and physical risks could prompt a reassessment of the value of a large range of assets. Just as we can have climate shocks and technological disruptions, we may also have “policy shocks” in response to dramatic climate events.

  • Technology induced risks – Combatting climate change will require faster technological change.

Technology is accelerating the pace of change around us, and in the process it is triggering new complex challenges, disruptions and tensions.

  • Demographic risks – Risks associated with demographic shifts.

Urbanization is a welcome trend in terms of more climate friendly living with regard to housing, transport systems and other public infrastructure. At the same time, with more extreme weather events, rising sea levels and pressure on critical infrastructure, urban centres are increasingly vulnerable.

Climate action is of high strategic importance

Climate change is a security challenge, and hence climate policy is of high strategic importance. The work in the GREBE project workpackage 4 is a small contribution to the strategic work on climate policy and security challenges – with a practical focus on business strategy models.

Climate policy matters!

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Carbfix project – from gas to rock

About Carbfix project – from gas to rock

CarbFix is a collaborative research project between Reykjavik Energy, the University of Iceland, Columbia University and CNRS that aims at developing safe, simple and economical methods and technology for permanent CO2 mineral storage in basalts. The CarbFix team had demonstrated that over 95% of CO2 captured and injected at Hellisheidi geothermal Power Plant in Iceland was mineralized within two years. This contrasts the previous common view that mineralization in CCS projects takes hundreds to thousands of years. Industrial scale capture and injection have been ongoing at the power plant since 2012. This project has evoked reactions worldwide as global warming is dangerously approaching 2°C which is seen as having catastrophically consequences.

Why Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming of more than 2°C would have serious consequences, such as an increase in the number of extreme climate events. The Paris agreement from the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015 sets out a global action plan to limit global warming to bell below 2°C. The agreement is the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal.

To reach this target, climate experts estimate that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to be reduced by 40-70% by 2050 and that carbon neutrality (zero emissions) needs to be reached by the end of the century at the latest. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has furthermore estimated that carbon capture and storage is vital if the world is to limit global temperature increase to 2°C.

CarbFix for future reduction of greenhouse gases

Reducing industrial CO2 emissions is considered one of the main challenges of this century. By capturing CO2 from variable sources and injecting it into suitable deep rock formations, the carbon released is returned back where it was extracted instead of freeing it to the atmosphere.  This technology might help to mitigate climate change as injecting CO2 at carefully selected geological sites with large potential storage capacity can be a long lasting and environmentally benign storage solution.

hellisheidi-power-plant

Picture of Hellisheiði Power Plant. Photo: Arni Saeberg.

To address this challenge, the CarbFix project is designed to optimize industrial methods for storing CO2 in basaltic rocks through a combined program consisting of, field scale injection of CO2 charged waters into basaltic rocks, laboratory based experiments, study of natural analogues and state of the art geochemical modeling. A second and equally important goal of this research project is to generate the human capital and expertise to apply the advances made in this project in the future.

Details and results of this research program, including regular updates, can be found on this website https://www.or.is/english/carbfix-project/about-carbfix

The objectives and procedure behind Carbfix project

The main objective is to develop new method and technology for capturing CO2 and H2S emission and turn into rock, carbon and Sulfur fixation so to speak. Basalt plays key role in the mineralization process as it contains high amount of calcium, magnesium and iron and these chemicals interact with CO2 and H2S to form minerals. They form Calcite from CO2 and fools gold from H2S.

Picture of ‘fools gold’                                                          Picture of Calcite

The procedure is described as injecting the captured gas into the earth again, where they were originated. It involves separating CO2 and H2S from other gases in the scrubbing system. During scrubbing the gases CO2 and H2S are dissolved in water resulting in a type of mineral water. This water is then injected into basaltic host formation and the outcome is fools gold from CO2 and Calcite from H2S. The mineralization takes about 2 years and is stable for centuries or even millions of years.

core-injection-site

Picture of Core from injection site showing CO2 bearing carbonate minerals within basaltic host rock. Photo: Sandra O Snaebjornsdottir

The method developed can be utilized wherever carbon dioxide is emitted in the vicinity of basaltic rock and water and sea. These conditions are widely found on the planet.

What are the goals of CarbFix?

CarbFix is aimed at developing new methods and technology for permanent CO2 mineral storage in basalts. This is done through a combined program consisting of:

  • field scale injection of CO2 charged waters into basaltic rocks
  • laboratory based experiments
  • study of natural analogues
  • geochemical modeling

A second and equally important goal of this research project is to generate the human capital and expertise to apply the advances made in this project in the future as mentioned above.