Saturday, February 16, 2008

How climate change sparked a Canadian gold rush

From the Times of London:

It’s little more than an ice-bound collection of shacks besieged by hungry polar bears. But climate change has sparked a gold rush in Churchill, population 923. Within 10 years, this tiny Canadian port could be transformed into a hub of world trade

“Catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world…”
(open in new tab. If the Beach Boys and Pam Anderson don't do it for ya, here's I Melt With You by Modern English)

Maybe the Beach Boys predicted it. Last summer, the Hawaiian surfing champs Garrett McNamara and Kealii Mamala caught a wave on top of the planet, becoming the first people ever to ride a tsunami made by an ice wall collapsing in the Arctic. For about a minute they skimmed along in a hail of rock and ice. How would McNamara rate this new form of extreme surfing? “I wouldn’t recommend it,” he said. Mark Serreze, senior scientist at a Colorado “snow-and-ice data centre”, recently told the Associated Press: “The Arctic is screaming.”

The question is, will it scream alone? Further south, from ski resorts to French vineyards to the Indian Ocean’s Maldives (one of the first nations likely to vanish as the waters rise), anxieties over unchecked global warming are ratcheting up to the point where a small nuclear war begins to have its attractions: it could cool things down about 2F as soot blocks out the sun. Failing that – or a huge carbon tax – we’re toast. Most of us, that is. For if climate change imperils the world at large, for a lucky few it’s the knock of opportunity.

“You can’t fight it. You have to accept it. The question is, how do we win by it?” That’s the silk-purse philosophy of Mike Spence, the 51-year-old mayor of Churchill, in Canada’s Manitoba province. Of the handful of countries that stand to gain by climate change, his tops the list: the Canadian Arctic comprises 40% of the second-largest nation on Earth, and, conceivably, a giant thaw could one day turn all that white waste into the new Illinois. But that’s all speculation, pie in the sky. In Churchill, Spence has already seen benefits. Thanks to climate change, his town has a future that’s not just bright but world-class....MORE