Is the Planet Warming Up? Just Ask the Corporations Whose Fortunes Depend On It.
Very excellent and thought-provoking article on Slate today about climate change and the corporate reaction.
"Betting on Climate Change"
Is the planet really warming up? Just ask the corporations that stand to make - or lose - billions because of "climate exposure."
By Clive Thompson
Last year, Beluga Shipping discovered that there's money in global warming.
Beluga is a German firm that specializes in "super heavy lift" transport. Its vessels are equipped with massive cranes, allowing it to load and unload massive objects, like multiton propeller blades for wind turbines. It is an enormously expensive business, but last summer, Beluga executives hit upon an interesting way to save money: shipping freight over a melting Arctic.
Beluga had received contracts to send materials on a sprawling trip that would begin in Ulsan, South Korea, head north and west to the Russian port city of Archangelsk—located near the border with Finland—and wind up in Nigeria. Normally, this route requires Beluga's ships to navigate an 11,000-mile route through the Suez Canal. But in 2008, executives for Beluga Shipping decided that global warming had eroded the Arctic's summer sea ice significantly enough that their ships could travel Northeast Passage along the north coast of Russia. Previously, a cargo ship could safely navigate that route only if an icebreaker went ahead, smashing a route through thick ice.
Now, a warming climate had—for six to eight weeks beginning in July—transformed much of the route into mostly open water, studded with ice floes that the Beluga ships could navigate. So its executives got permission from the Russian government to travel along the coast, paid a transit fee of "a comparably moderate five-digit figure," and sent the ships on their way. Four months later, they'd finished the trip. Compared to the old Suez Canal journey, this shorter route saved an enormous pile of money: It cost $300,000 less per ship in lower fuel and bunker costs. Global warming had boosted the company's revenues by $600,000* in one year alone.
When I interviewed Beluga CEO Niels Stolberg via e-mail this spring, he said he envisions using the Northeast Passage regularly. Indeed, he's planning on another trip this summer. He said that since the shorter passage requires generating far less CO2, it's "greener"; it's also more ironic, since it was high concentrations CO2that helped melt the route in the first place.
"I am convinced," Stolberg added, "that the Arctic will become an area of quite regular sea traffic at least during summer."
[To read full article, visit Slate.com at this link]