There are a slew of articles dealing with a study revealing a big increase in shipping & shipping routes by 2050. The impact for Canada, as noted in the National Post, is the Parry Channel becoming the main shipping lane. The co-author had written in a 200 book that Canada would be a major world power thanks to climate change; his latest study might bolster that point.
Some of the barriers to travelling through is the Arctic are the extra costs in ice-strengthening ships, free ice floating on the water & more storms along the Arctic coasts. Not to mention that Canada will spend 280 million US$ on the design of new Arctic offshore patrol ships.
The federal government is opening up bids to start oil & gas activities in Nunavut’s high Arctic. It adds that the area has a lot of opportunities with an estimated 14 trillion cubic feet of gas and 300 million barrels of oil.
On the other hand, we shouldn’t forget that Shell has ‘paused’ drilling in the Arctic & that there’s a federal inquiry into its drilling activities in the US. Canada should take a more circumspect attitude to Arctic exploration.
The polar bear ban was defeated at CITES in Bangkok; the Canadian government & the Inuit people were against the ban.
In other news, a study suggests that the Canadian Arctic Archipelago could lose up to a fifth of its volume if global warming keeps up as predicted. A major problem is the lack of mapping of the region, which the rapid changes make even harder to track.
A lot of talk is taking place at the CITES meeting in Bangkok concerning a possible ban of international trade of polar bears. Canada, as the only country to deal polar bear parts on the international market, seems to be isolated. Russia & the US support the ban for different reasons
On the other hand, some groups oppose the ban because they doubt the conservation benefits. For Inuit there’s also an important economic component supported by the Nunavut. Question is, are the different governments using the polar bears are trade leverage?
It seems that despite stressing the importance of asserting Canadian sovereignty over the Arctic by building new ships to patrol the Arctic & budgeting over Can$3-billion for it, the Harper government will have to delay the building of said vessels & some wags even doubt the controversial project will see the light of day. Now, it may or may not make sense for Canada to spend that much money in order to patrol such a vast extent & the government might be spending more wisely by investing in icebreakers while making sure Canadian commercial ships have free & safe passage. Sometimes we have to leave ideology behind & be realistic.
Looking at the comments generated by an article published on the Nunatsiaq Online, it’s clear that developing tourism is just as complicated as exploiting the natural resources such as oil & minerals. There has been in increase in the number of both tourists & boats in the last few years. There are also environmental concerns & social impacts resulting form the increase number of visitors as well as the infrastructures needed to service them. One should also bear in mind the elitist nature of Arctic tourism owing to its cost & nature.
With global warming doing its thing the Arctic is no longer this quiet backwater that rarely made the news. It’s definitely piquing peoples interest as exemplified by the tug ‘o war for membership, in one form or another, in the Arctic Council.
For the time being the only countries with membership are the ones with territory within the Arctic circle; the Council also recognises other countries & non-state entities as observers. The observer status has to be conferred unanimously, see the Alaska Dispatch for more info. Now many countries, mostly Asian, are gunning for a seat at the Council such as Singapore, China, Greenpeace and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers. The reasons behind the Asian countries’ interests are the increase in ships navigating the Arctic waters last summer & the competition for resources.
The requests for observer status is dividing the eight members. Until then the Arctic Council has operated in a spirit of co-operation, but the Chinese application is dividing the members. Canada, which takes over the chair from Sweden, might be using its vote to get back at the EU for its seal ban, while Russia isn’t in favour of observers such as Greenpeace. Ultimately, the question is whether letting in more actors in the Council will be beneficial for all, including the Arctic.
See the Economist & the Alaska Dispatch for more info