The Northwest Passage opens, our world transformed before our eyes
Well, for the first time that we know of, and definitely the first time since 1978, the Northwest Passage is ice free. Basically a sea route around Northern Canada from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific Ocean, the Northwest Passage was sought by navigators and explorers for centuries as it would dramatically reduce the sailing distance between Europe and Asia. By the mid nineteenth century a lot of dead explorers had pretty much proved that there was no reliable ice free passage. And that was the end of that neat idea.
Until now. While the passage is not exactly ready to rock and roll just yet, at the rate at which the ice in the Arctic is melting, it could be just a few years. Yes, China will be able to ship it’s crap to Europe even cheaper, and drive even more local business’s into the ground. The next time you’re looking at tourist kitsch in Rome or Paris, note how much of it is “made in China” now. China is becoming the world’s Walmart…and it’s not a good thing.
However, I digress. What does this historic occurrence mean? For one thing it’s another indication that global warming is speeding up faster than the most pessimistic models predicted. Yes, the global warming scientists are wrong, it’s happening much faster than they said it would! I can imagine the global warming skeptics saying “Nyaa,Nyaa, Nyaa, we were right all along, we’re all going to die sooner! In your face science!” Sigh, I hope not, but these days when the media delights in encouraging the partisan aspect of just about everything, who knows.
Speaking of partisan, the melting of the Arctic Ice is ushering in a “black gold rush” as Arctic nations dust off old territorial claims and repackage them for modern times. The Russians have even gone so far as to place a Russian flag on the seabed at the North pole, to bolster their claim that a huge underwater mountain range, the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Russia’s continental shelf. Their claim is regarded as optimistic at best, but with possibly as much as a quarter of the world’s oil reserves being in the Arctic, the various nations that border on the Arctic are certainly going to try and claim as much as they can. That would be Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark (through Greenland,) and the USA.
On the one hand it would be ironic if the melting of the Arctic allowed us to rush in and pump and burn more oil and make the global warming problem even worse. It’s like setting fire to your curtains to warm your home. No wonder the aliens haven’t contacted us yet, they’re quietly circling above us saying “What are those people doing?” Moving right along, I guess even without global warming, all this mineral and oil exploration (presuming we don’t get into war over it) can’t be good for the environment in one of the world’s remaining almost pristine regions.
On the other hand the Arctic environment is basically melting and transforming so much that there is zero chance of preserving its wildlife in it’s native state. We can’t exactly build an artificial trans oceanic ice pack. The Polar Bears, seals, walrus and Narwals and such are in deep trouble no matter what we do now in their environment. The Inuit and other Arctic dwelling folks are going to have to get used to hornets and cockroaches I guess. I know some may pillory me for seeming indifference to this aspect of global warming, it’s a matter of choosing one’s battles wisely. It’s still remotely possible that the rapid melting we are seeing in the Arctic is some sort of local phenomena, so I don’t want to split hares over it.
Sigh. And yes, I did promise a list of “ten good things.” It’s been hard, I’m up to six now, and even that was scraping a few barrels. It’s easy to find little stuff where a pet snake rescues a litter of puppies from a chemical spill and such, but good news that is truly global is harder to come by. Suggestions are welcome.
(The above image was produced by the ESA and I suspect it’s public domain, but in any case I am claiming it as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, and it is an historically important image. Credit: ESA/BBC)