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.
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
As made clear by the latest data from the Cryosat mission the sea-ice cover during the autumn season is down a third & almost 10% for the winter period. The most affected region is the north of Greenland & the Canadian archipelago. It’s too early to forecast long term trends for the time being, but given time the investigators will have a clearer picture.
In a recent article from Feb 9th, the Economist looks at the economic implications of the shrinking ice sheet. The obvious answer to this situation is that smaller ice covering equals greater economic opportunities. The real answer, however, seems to be it depends. It’s a resounding yes for oil & gas as well as other mineral resources. Warming the ice desert ought to open up new fishing zones.
That at least is the common thinking, but as the article goes on to show, that might not be the case. There are three main reasons why we’re not going to see more fish in the Arctic Ocean despite global warming.
First, forget the increase in plankton even if it’ll help some fish. The Arctic is too deep for most species for them to survive.
Second, warm water absorbs more CO2 & that in turn produces more carbonic acid. Less ice means more exposed water to absorb the CO2. Acidic waters weakens shell, as well as less food.
The last reason is stratification: seawater separates into layers & an increase in stratification diminishes the level of nutrients in the layers.
For more details, see Paul Wassmann & Jean Éric Tremblay.
One aspect involving climate change & the Arctic I’m very interested, or shall I say concerned, is the possibilty of conflicts arising. My guess is that the Arctic countries will see an increase in trade wars, like this mackerel wars involving Iceland & the UK. The article from the Guardian illustrates how the economy is becoming so interconnected. Iceland & the Faroe Islands send their fish to be processed in the UK: the Scottish skippers support the ban & obviously, the processors don’t. This possible ban also backs a point I made previoulsy, i.e., some Nordic countries – the Faroe Islands & Iceland – aren’t part of the European Union, they’re outliers.