Connect with us


The Race for Arctic Domination



See full-size infographic for more legibility.
The Race for Arctic Domination

The Race for Arctic Domination

Note: see full-sized infographic for more legibility.

In the year 1776, James Cook was dispatched from Great Britain on an important mission: to discover the Northwest Passage. The famed hypothetical route from the Pacific to the Atlantic was a primary motivation for many British expeditions to the New World. Such a route would expedite trade between Europe and Asia, creating wealth for the kingdoms and merchants that could navigate it. The British government tried to motivate explorers even more by putting into law that there would be a prize of £20,000 for whoever could make such a discovery.

After spending some time in Hawaii, Cook came at it from the Pacific side. He and his crew searched northwards along the long coast of British Columbia, and eventually made his way in between Alaska and Russia through the Bering Strait. Seeing nothing but icebergs, it became clear that there was no navigable passage that could be seen.

For close to 300 years, explorers had searched for such a route, but ice and cold made it ultimately impossible for the technology of the day. Even Robert McClure, who was credited with the discovery of the Passage, got stuck in ice for three winters near Banks Island and had to be rescued.

Today, these routes through Northern waters have regained importance. Over recent decades, ice has thawed in the Arctic and 2008 became the first year that both the Northeast Passage (North of Russia) and the Northwest Passage (North of Canada) were open to ships simultaneously. This means it may be the first time that a vessel could theoretically circumnavigate the North Pole in 125,000 years.

Not surprisingly, countries such as Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, and the United States have taken notice and are posturing accordingly. The thawing waterways of the Arctic are the potential home to shipping routes, natural resources, and other territorial claims. For example, the US Geological Service estimates that the Arctic is home to 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, as well as 30% of its undiscovered natural gas.

However, nation-states are not the only group engaged in this Battle Royale. Environmentalists have also entered the ring, and they’ve already helped to deliver a solid takedown. In September 2015, Royal Dutch Shell announced that they would abandon their Arctic drilling campaign even after spending $7 billion on the well. Realistically, there were several reasons for the change of plans, but traction on behalf of environmentalists definitely played a key role.

While some experts are referring to this as a new Cold War (pun likely intended), the conquest for Arctic domination is certainly heating up.

Original graphic by: SCMP

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist
Click for Comments


Visualizing the Flow of Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in the U.S.

A look at the flow of energy-related CO2 emissions from the sources that generate energy to the sectors that use it.



Visualizing the Flow of Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in the U.S.

This was originally posted on the Decarbonization Channel. Subscribe to the free mailing list to be the first to see graphics related to decarbonization with a focus on the U.S. energy sector.

In 2021, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the generation and consumption of energy reached 4.9 billion tonnes.

To better understand how various energy sources and their end-uses contribute to carbon emissions, this graphic visualizes the flow of energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. using carbon flow charts by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

What are Energy-Related CO2 Emissions?

Energy-related CO2 emissions refer to the release of carbon dioxide as a result of the combustion of fuels to produce energy. They arise through the direct use of fossil fuels for transport, heating, or industrial needs, as well as the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation.

To provide some context, non-energy-related CO2 emissions are those that result from industrial chemical reactions, deforestation, and agricultural activities.

As the largest contributor to carbon emissions, however, energy-related CO2 emissions account for approximately 85% of all emissions in the U.S. which we will now explore in more detail.

U.S. Energy-Related CO2 Emissions in 2021

Followed by a pandemic-driven decline in 2020, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. increased by 325 million tonnes in 2021, marking the largest-ever annual increase.

Energy SourceCO2 emissions in million tonnes, 2021% of total energy-related emissions
Natural Gas1,63733.7%
Solar, Wind, Nuclear, Hydro, and Biomass00%

When we follow the CO2 emissions from the above fossil fuels to their end uses, transportation and electricity generation stand out as the biggest contributors.

In 2021, these two sectors accounted for more than 68% of all energy-related emissions in the country, roughly emitting 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2.

End-Uses CO2 emissions in million tonnes, 2021% of total energy-related emissions
Electricity Generation1,53731.6%
Industrial Uses96519.8%
Residential Uses3216.6%
Commercial Uses2394.9%

When it comes to transportation, petroleum accounted for 97% of emissions, largely due to motor gasoline and diesel consumption. On the other hand, coal and natural gas made up 99% of CO2 emissions related to electricity generation.

Due to its high carbon intensity, coal’s contribution to power sector emissions may also be of particular interest. As the share of coal rose from 20% to 23% in the U.S. electricity mix in 2021, electricity emissions from coal also increased for the first time since 2014.

Naturally, this shift raised the overall energy-related CO2 emissions in 2021. It also caused a 4% hike in the carbon intensity of the country’s electricity.

Lowering Emissions

To avoid the impacts of climate change, many countries and companies are working towards decarbonization across all sectors, which can largely be facilitated by reductions in energy-related carbon emissions.

Accounting for nearly 70% of all energy-related CO2 emissions, transportation and utilities can be important pillars in these efforts.

Continue Reading