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New Shipping Lanes Open Up as the Arctic Melts

A team at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) has conducted a study into the effects of global warming, and the subsequent melting of sea ice, on Arctic shipping lanes.

They created two scenarios and, using independent climate forecasts for 2040 to 2059, created their own predictions as to the impact of global temperature increases on the ability of ships to traverse Arctic waters. One of the scenarios assumed that global carbon emissions would increase by 25%, the other worked on a 10% increase.

They managed to conclude that the difference between the two carbon scenarios was minimal, and that by the middle of the century even ordinary ships will be able to sail parts of the Arctic that were previously considered inaccessible, without the need of large icebreakers.

Related article: China's Smog Becoming an International Issue

Laurence C. Smith, a geography professor at the UCLA, stated that “this development is both exciting from an economic development point of view and worrisome in terms of safety, both for the Arctic environment and for the ships themselves.

No matter which carbon emission scenario is considered, by mid-century we will have passed a crucial tipping point — sufficiently thin sea ice — enabling moderately capable icebreakers to go where they please.”

This development would enable a direct shipping route right over the North Pole; a route that is 20% shorter than today’s most-trafficked Arctic shipping lane, the Northern Sea Route around the northern coast of Russia.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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