Shipping & Oil May Be Speeding Up Arctic Sea Ice Thaw
Over 400 oil and gas fields within the Arctic region were established by 2007; most of the untapped oil and gas is now projected to be offshore. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said there was a vital need to calculate risks of local pollutants in the Arctic. For example, soot blackens ice, making it absorb more of the sun's heat and virtually accelerating a melt.
Pollution in the Arctic from shipping and offshore activities – which have recently increased due to global warming and sea ice thawing – may speed up that thaw.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is trying to work out a new “Polar Code” that may constrict everything from emissions to hull standards. For shipping, use of the Arctic route may be less damaging overall in terms of global warming since it is a shortcut between some Atlantic and Pacific ports. That means ships burn much less fuel during the journey.
Experts are calculating the effects of the Arctic shipping route versus using the Suez Canal. In 2009, it cut around 4,000 nautical miles for one ship’s voyage. One study directed that increased use of the Arctic route might limit carbon dioxide emissions for global shipping by 2.9 million tons a year by 2050.
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