Increasing climate-related emissions in Svalbard

Increasing climate-related emissions in Svalbard

Top image: The new report shows that coal based energy production, as exemplified here by the Longyearbyen power plant, is one of the main contributors to increased climate-related emissions in Svalbard over the past decade. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS.

Climate-related emissions in Svalbard are increasing, according to a new report. New data show that the major sources of emissions are coal-based energy production and ship traffic in and around the archipelago.

16 February 2010
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS

The estimated emissions of climate-related gasses in Svalbard from 2000 until 2007 show that the biggest contributors to these emissions are the coal based energy production and ship traffic, especially the tourist cruise traffic.

The methane emissions in Svalbard originate almost exclusively from the coal production, according to the report “Climate influencing emissions, scenarios and mitigation options at Svalbard”.

The report is produced by the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency (Klif), the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), and UNIS.

– For the first time have climate-related emissions in an Arctic society been thoroughly investigated, says co-author and UNIS adjunct professor Roland Kallenborn.

Climate-related emissions in Svalbard have increased significantly since the year 2000, and the new report discusses possible future emission scenarios in 2012 and 2025. If no preventive measures on the activity level in Svalbard are enacted, the estimates show that the emission growth will be even greater towards 2025.

– The results show that the complex infrastructure needed to keep a relatively isolated society operational is large and is the main reason behind the considerably emissions of climate-related pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and black carbon (BC, soot). The energy production and ship traffic are the two main sources of these emissions, says Kallenborn.

Coal production and ship traffic main contributors
The goal of the study was to establish an emission inventory and emission scenarios for climate influencing compounds at Svalbard, as a basis to develop strategies for emission reduction measures and policies.

Pollutants considered in the study were carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), Sulphur dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen oxides (NOx as NO2), and for the first time also estimates of black carbon (BC, soot) and organic carbon (OC) have been included. The results show that emissions of all pollutants have increased over the time span 2000-2007 (Figure 2), and are expected to increase also in the future if additional measures are not implemented.

Total emissions of CO2, CH4, NO2 and SO2 at Svalbard 2000-2007.

Total emissions of CO2, CH4, NO2 and SO2 at Svalbard 2000-2007. Unit: Tons. Figure: Klif, NILU and UNIS.

Marine transportation contributes substantially (90%) to emissions of particulate matter (BC, OC) and NOx in 2007, and is the second largest source of CO2 (40%). Energy production is the largest source of CO2 (50%) and SO2 (90%), while nearly all methane is released in relation to coal mining.

The high contribution of climate influencing emissions from cruise traffic is one of the main findings in this study. 20% of the total CO2 emissions in 2007 and 40% of NOx and particulate matter originates from cruise ships.

Local emissions of BC contributes significantly (20%) to the total deposition in Svalbard.
Black carbon is important for global warming both as a compound that heats the atmosphere, and as a contributor to accelerated melting when deposited on snow and ice. Preventing snow and ice melting at Svalbard and in the rest of the Arctic region is a key factor to ensure a sustainable future.

However, the emissions from Svalbard are miniscule compared to emission released from the Norwegian mainland and waters (1% in the case of CO2). Even so, local releases of climate influencing compounds in the vulnerable Arctic may turn out to make a difference both with respect to adverse environmental effects and to climate change, according to the report.

Future scenarios
The report also discusses possible emission scenarios for both the short-term (2012) and the long-term (2025). Different growth rates were defined by the historical development of activities as well as from published studies on the future society development at Svalbard.

According to the report, a steep increase in emissions of climate related compounds both in the short- and in the long-term can be expected for the coming years if steps are not taken in order to reduce the emissions.

Emissions of climate influencing pollutants will continue to grow by about 30% towards 2012 even if the current plans to reduce the Norwegian coal production to half the 2007 level are realized. The emission increase is caused by the assumed growth in activities related mainly to tourism and research.

In the long-term, developments particularly in the mining and tourist activities may change emissions between 2012 and 2025. While exhaustion coal reserves and thereby abandonment of Norwegian mining activities at Svalbard will bring CO2 emissions down below 2007 levels, a potential doubling of the tourist related activities will cause emissions to increase significantly (25%).

Vestreng, Vigdis (Klif); Kallenborn, Roland (UNIS and NILU); Økstad, Elin (Klif): “Climate influencing emissions, scenarios and mitigation options at Svalbard”. TA2552-2009.


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