How much oil lies under that Arctic ice? 90 billion barrels, according to the US Geological Survey.
But, how much really is that? If you ask an oil company, that’s a huge amount. With a barrel of oil over the hundred dollar mark, that's nine trillion dollars worth at today’s prices – if you could get at it all.
However, there’s a much more important number than the mind-boggling figures that the oil companies deal in.
That's the number of years the Arctic oil could keep our addiction going for.
It’s a figure not in the trillions, millions, thousands, or even, hundreds, but, actually small enough to count on just one hand: all the oil lying under the Arctic ice would only provide three years worth of the world's oil.
It’s astonishing. All the flag planting, dragging of icebergs and gambling with risky drilling, is all to dig up a dead fuel that will only keep us going for three years (global consumption is approx. 80 million barrels / day).
We all know politicians deal in electoral cycles and oil executives in accounting cycles, and there is often a very cosy relationship between the two.
But, we cannot let them destroy the Arctic with reckless policies towards oil and fossil fuels.
It was only last week that we learned that the Arctic ice is disappearing faster than we feared.
And with the vanishing ice, endangered polar bears, narwhals, seals, blue whales and countless bird species are further threatened.
Then there’s us.
The Arctic is our global air conditioner, regulating our climate by reflecting the sun off its ice. The climate underpins everything we depend on, including the food we eat.
According to a study last week in Science, climate change over the past three decades has hit wheat and corn production, pushing up prices more than 20%. For those living on or below the poverty line, that costs lives.
So when you see images of oil companies, like Cairn Energy, and compliant politicians taking their spill-prone rusty rigs to the Arctic, to drill below the seasonal ice, remind yourself what they’re risking this all for:
Only three years of oil.
Needless to say, we don’t need that oil. If we start the inevitable transition off oil now, then we can leave that oil in the ground and protect the Arctic. The alternative is to wait until these companies have converted the last pristine reaches of our planet into another row of numbers on their oil splattered spreadsheets.