June 13, 2024
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Rising Sea Levels Could Severely Disrupt Crude Oil Shipments – Think Tank

Rising sea levels could severely disrupt crude oil shipments and weaken energy security in import-dependent countries like China, South Korea, and Japan, according to a report released by the China Water Risk (CWR) think tank on Tuesday.

The researchers highlighted that many of the world’s largest oil terminals are vulnerable to flooding, which could have catastrophic effects on global oil trade and energy infrastructure.

Melting ice and swelling seas, driven by rising global temperatures, could cause “unstoppable multi-metre sea level rise,” the report warned. This scenario threatens to submerge critical oil ports, disrupt crude oil trade routes, and flood coastal refineries and petrochemical facilities.

The CWR’s findings were based on a “stress test” of maritime infrastructure used for the export and import of crude oil.

A 2021 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that, if current trends continue, average sea levels could rise by more than a meter by the end of the century, with a two-meter rise also a possibility.

The CWR study identified that 12 of the top 15 tanker terminals could be affected by a one-meter rise in sea levels, including five in Asia.

The report estimated that up to 42% of global crude oil exports from key producers like Saudi Arabia, Russia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates are at risk. This could impact 45% of crude oil shipments to major importers such as China, the United States, South Korea, and the Netherlands.

Given that Asian countries are likely to be the hardest hit, the report urged them to take the lead in both transitioning away from oil dependency and enhancing the resilience of their port infrastructure.

Debra Tan, CWR director and lead author, emphasized the need to capitalize on the unique investment opportunities presented by these risks.

“We must capitalise on them and wean ourselves off oil: far from providing energy security, our oil habit could sink all our futures,” she said.

Japan and South Korea, which import about three-quarters of their crude oil from ports vulnerable to a one-meter sea level rise, face significant risks. The report also warned that most of their receiving ports could be similarly impacted.

By continuing to increase oil production, the sector could exacerbate the problem, potentially leading to a self-defeating cycle of rising emissions and escalating climate impacts.

The CWR report cautioned that if global temperatures are not kept within the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, sea level rises could reach three meters, placing even more port infrastructure at risk.

“Ironically, oil, a key component of energy security, could end up threatening energy security of multiple countries across Asia, in particular Japan and South Korea,” it said.

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