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Move over Suez Canal, there's a new route in town
September 11, 2009 7:40 AM   Subscribe

For hundreds of years, mariners have dreamed of an Arctic shortcut that would allow them to speed trade between Asia and the West. Two German ships are poised to complete that transit for the first time, aided by the retreat of Arctic ice that scientists have linked to global warming. Arctic Shortcut Beckons Shippers as Ice Thaws.
posted by flapjax at midnite (24 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
And the best song about it, by Stan Rogers (weird news link, sorry).
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:25 AM on September 11, 2009


It's kind of disturbing to see hard evidence that the ice is all going away, but on the other hand there's no reason not to use those routes if they're open. Guess we won't need nulcear icebreakers for much longer.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:26 AM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Er, well. Even though the article is more about the Northeast Passage...
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2009


This will save a lot of energy.
posted by Xoebe at 8:30 AM on September 11, 2009


Hurray for global warming!

No, really, my fear is that people will see short-term benefits in global warming, such as a new trade route, and this will reduce the very necessary need we, as humans, feel to try and stop it.
posted by elder18 at 8:31 AM on September 11, 2009


Burhanistan: That is so cool.
posted by odinsdream at 8:33 AM on September 11, 2009


it would be cooler if I spelled nukular correctly
posted by Burhanistan at 8:35 AM on September 11, 2009


It's way to late to stop it, elder18. It's all well beyond our control now.

The real interesting bit, IMO, is how Canada is going to — or not going to — assert sovereignty over her Northern Territories.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:40 AM on September 11, 2009


Interesting, maybe, in relation to a piece about the Northwest passage. Which this is not.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2009


Great video (not so sure about the soundtrack, though) of the Yamal going to the North Pole.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:55 AM on September 11, 2009


Man, aced on the Stan Rogers joke straight out of the gate.
posted by GuyZero at 9:38 AM on September 11, 2009


It's way to late to stop it, elder18. It's all well beyond our control now.

What are you talking about? Are you saying that humans are unable to control themselves, and will go on emitting carbon, or do you think it's actually impossible to stop even with carbon control and perhaps geoengineering?
posted by delmoi at 9:46 AM on September 11, 2009


Sigh. And I even read the freakin' article.

Comprehension must be crazy low today. Sorry for leading the thread down the wrong passage.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:49 AM on September 11, 2009


Well that was snarkier than I intended.

I had wondered, reading the article, how long it would take people to jump to conclusions about what it was about, but I hadn't made/followed the Stan Rogers connection.

This is cool, but it will be hard to leave behind the romance of the icebreaker.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:30 AM on September 11, 2009


The only thing more "romantic" than an icebreaker is a nuclear submarine on an extended mission. That has to be the hardest, most unappealing job ever invented.
posted by GuyZero at 11:36 AM on September 11, 2009


What are you talking about? Are you saying that humans are unable to control themselves, and will go on emitting carbon, or do you think it's actually impossible to stop even with carbon control and perhaps geoengineering?

I can't speak for him, but I also think it's too late, in the sense that our emissions to date were sufficient to create a runaway system, such that the cessation of our emissions (which is not going to happen) would now be insufficient to stop the process.
(For example, an effect of climate change is permafrost thaw, which results in methane being released into the atmosphere, which adds to climate change. When these feedback loops reach the point where they become self-sustaining, we've emitted ourselves out of the loop and out of control)

I do think we had enough warning and enough time to act, but I don't think we seized the opportunity. I think the opportunity has passed.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:59 AM on September 11, 2009


Yeah but see, shipping lanes are cyclical.
posted by Camofrog at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2009


Nothing says we shouldn't act though.
I mean, what, you don't stop hitting yourself in the head with a hammer because you've already cracked your skull?
Anyway, plenty of scientists saying we can turn it around.
Y'know, it's funny - I suppose using the current trendy labels I'd be further left, more 'liberal' than George Clooney, but this kind of thing is exactly what I mean by 'conservative.'
The idea that you have accepted a gift from the past and owe a debt to the future. That we're stewards of the world who pass it on to the next generation, not owners who can do with civilization what we will. I don't think it's our right to risk ending it, even if there is a buck to be made.
These folks are looking at goals for 2050 and beyond.
Shipping and logistics outfits are looking at their profits for the next quarter.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:17 PM on September 11, 2009


Bad news for Somali pirates, I guess.
posted by nowonmai at 3:46 PM on September 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think it has become unstoppable, delmoi. Whether we humans are to blame is irrelevant: we have to deal with the reality that's on the ground today.

According to news I have recently read, ie. in the past month, not only are the peat bogs of the frozen north now thawing and releasing greenhouse gases, but the frozen hydrates in the deep lakes and continental shelf are bubbling.

We. Are. Fucked. There is literally nothing we can do to prevent global climate change now. It's like trying to put the cork back into a champagne bottle. Just ain't happening.

I think we should still make every effort to become more sustainable in all our practices. This is the only planet we currently have, so it's best that we take a long-term view of keeping it liveable. But runaway greenhouse gas emissions? Too bad, so sad.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:43 PM on September 11, 2009


Not that I'm a climate change denier, but there used to be tropical plants in northern Canada and glaciers covering most of the earth, so...

There is literally nothing we can do to prevent global climate change now.

We could never have stopped it before the discovery of oil either.
posted by GuyZero at 4:47 PM on September 11, 2009


I do strongly suspect that if we'd clued in when the alarm bells were first ringing — at least three decades ago, and maybe five — we would be one helluva lot better off going into this. It'd have bought us some time, for starters; and we'd be way further along on developing better energy technologies.

What really sucks about the future — and I hope I'm dead before it gets this bad — is that the ultrawealthy are going to hole up in their bubbles and will essentially escape all real consequence for the greed and stupidity of their forebears. I don't think wealth equality has ever been more disparate than it is now, and that means the vast majority of our children and grandchildren are going to be living in slums, dying in bits from the consequences of rapid climate change.

So glad that I don't have kids. Humans have screwed the pooch.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:51 PM on September 11, 2009




"That has to be the hardest, most unappealing job ever invented."

I'd say not even close. Underground coal miner, state prison nurse or San Quentin Surgeon, hot tar roofer, shark suit tester, ship breaker just to name a few off the top of my head have got to be worse. I'm sure there is a job out there that routinely requires swimming/wading in raw sewage.
posted by Mitheral at 5:16 PM on September 12, 2009


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