Science & Technology

The Arctic Ocean transportation route feels hot

In the light of recent climate science predictions about sea ice melting, the controversy over shipping routes in the Arctic Ocean is intensifying. By mid-century, the ice-free route of the high seas, once covered with summer sea ice, may appear for the first time in recent history, according to new research. The more accessible Arctic Circle can impact the timing, sustainability, and legal status of international shipping.

“Unfortunately, the ice has already receded and these routes are open. We need to start thinking critically about the legal, environmental and geopolitical implications.”

Detouring a ship from its original route (often the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal) can reduce transit times and distances for many international trips. Also, if you change routes through the Arctic Circle, a small percentage of your transportation routes could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The spread of sea ice can even affect the scope of international law: now Article 234 The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea gives coastal states control over areas covered by ice for most of the year. Opinions disagree, but some say that shrinking sea ice may limit countries’ claims in the Arctic Ocean.

“There is no scenario where melting ice in the Arctic is good news,” said a climate scientist. Amanda Lynch From Brown University. “But unfortunately, the ice has already receded and these routes are open. We need to start thinking critically about the legal, environmental and geopolitical implications.”

The degree of melting in the Arctic depends on how warm the world is. Scientists heat the Earth well beyond 1.5 ° C, Disastrous and deadly consequences..

The changing sea

Pandemic supply chain disruption And that Russia invades Ukraine It highlights the delicate flow of global products.

The detour “has little impact on global emissions.”

For some, warming the Arctic provides trading opportunities. According to 2021, the funneling of vessels through the Arctic Route is 30% to 50% shorter than using the Suez Canal. review Of international transportation. Depending on the speed of the ship, travel time may be reduced by more than two weeks.

But those looking for a climate-friendly reason for Arctic shipping may be disappointed.

Wang Zhaojun Bypassing a small portion of the world’s shipping trips at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, where PhD students at the University of Delaware conducted research on Arctic shipping, reduced emissions by an average of 24% and produced about 264 metric tons of fuel. It turned out to be saved. each.

However, these trips are only a small part of transportation trips. Of the more than 500,000 international trade trips, only 20 can save money and time by using the Arctic route. These shifts “will have less impact on global emissions,” Wang said.she Release Result is Maritime policy and management Last year’s journal.

The Arctic minimum annual sea ice range in September has declined since records began in 1979 and is now declining by 13% every 10 years. credit: NSIDC / NASAPublic domain

according to New results In Bulletin of the United States Academy of Sciences ((((PNAS), Ice shrinkage can affect the fingerprints of the Arctic Law. Sea ice is preferentially retreating from the eastern Arctic near Russia.

“The reduction in sea ice means that Russian states cannot make the same level of claims across the sea, at least not legally,” he said. Charles Norki, Director of Marine and Coastal Law, Faculty of Law, University of Maine, participated in new research. “What we have is the legal and geopolitical relationship that is actually being promoted by the science of climate change.”

However Arild MoeA research professor at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway, who co-authored the 2021 analysis of the Arctic Ocean Route, argued that Russia could maintain control of traffic as the sea ice disappeared. “There is no reduction in regulatory friction.”

Thin ice

There are many types of vessels that may take advantage of ice-free waters in the future, including naval vessels, cruise vessels, container vessels, scientific vessels, and transport vessels to offshore drilling platforms.

“By diversifying trade routes, we can significantly improve the resilience of our global transportation infrastructure, especially by considering new routes that cannot be blocked because they are not canals.”

These vessels must face a myriad of challenges in the increasingly ice-free Arctic Circle. One of the most striking is the fact that Arctic ice changes significantly from year to year. “Regardless of which climate change scenario we are on, year-to-year variability has remained very high for a long time,” said Lynch, the latest leader. PNAS study.

According to the King’s Sustainability Analysis, 83 of the more than 500,000 trips were short, saving 45 voyage times, but only 20 economically feasible. “I think that’s definitely a surprising result, as people are always talking about the great potential for transportation in the Arctic Circle.”

That’s not the only complexity. Obtaining coverage of Arctic satellite navigation is difficult, ice is difficult to predict, emergency operations are difficult, and transportation has various restrictions. Polar code, Limit the size of vehicles allowed. The king is also worried about the impact of invasive species on the fragile Arctic environment.

“Even if some shippers prefer to sail across the Arctic, some shippers may not,” Moe said. “Risk assessment and insurance are important here.”

However, Norchi pointed out the possible benefits of diversifying transportation.

“Diversification of trade routes — especially considering new routes that cannot be blocked Not a canal— Significantly improve the resilience of our global transportation infrastructure, ”says Norchi.

— Genessa Dancom (@jrdscience), Staff writer

Quote: Duncombe, J. (2022), Arctic shipping routes feel hot, Eos, 103, Published June 6, 2022.
Text © 2022. author. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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The Arctic Ocean transportation route feels hot The Arctic Ocean transportation route feels hot

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