Polar ice: Less in the Arctic, more in the Antarctic

Flickr photo. Si Jobling

The Arctic is becoming ice free. This is new. And the Antarctic is becoming icier. However, there’s a good reason that ‘climate change’ is a better term than ‘global warming’. It implies that the results will vary depending on where you are. Everything doesn’t get warmer. Some areas will get colder.

What could all this mean?

A warming Arctic will clearly have devastating effects on the animal and plant populations, many of which may not survive. Previously remote parts of Alaska will boom economically as ports and support for shipping are built.

Drilling for oil in Alaska and Canada could become more, not less, problematic. If the permafrost melts, then current roads will become seas of mud in the spring making it difficult to get heavy equipment through. Sea routes opened by decreasing ice probably can’t get the equipment close enough to where it’s needed without using land routes.

Multiple countries border the Arctic and will certainly make claim to parts of the new shipping routes. The area will certainly become a new and vital geopolitical area with many competing interests vying for dominance. Russia is planning experimental voyages in September from Murmansk (near the northern tip of Finland) through the Arctic to countries in Southeast Asia. Not only will this route be much cheaper and faster, it also avoids going through the Suez Canal and potentially facing Somali pirates, Russia says.

Ports in California may find it similarly more expedient to ship to Europe via the Arctic rather than through the Panama Canal or around South America. Will traffic in the Panama Canal drop as the Arctic route becomes popular?

From my latest CAIVN article

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