Three recent news accounts reveal the reality and complexity of the looming global disaster. Anyone who has studied human evolution knows that we’re a resilient species, but we’re going to be put to the test.
The Associated Press had this little story:
Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane.
At face value, that sounds kind of cool. Take a cruise from Alaska to Europe. Or from Alaska to New England, via the Beaufort Sea.
Except that this could make for some brand new military tensions. As the University of British Columbia’s Liu Institute explains:
With the ice disappearing, the currents and narrow channels pose less of an impediment to navigation: an experienced sailor could now take a large tanker through the straits during the late summer and early autumn. Governments are gradually waking up to this new reality. In 2001, a report prepared for the US Navy predicted that, ‘within five to ten years, the Northwest Passage will be open to non-ice-strengthened vessels for at least one month each summer.’ A briefing given to the Canadian defence minister, Gordon O’Connor, in February 2006 was confident that ‘the Northwest Passage could be open to more regular navigation by 2015’ if ‘the current rate of ice thinning continues’.
And as CNN and the BBC explain, the valuable natural resources under the Arctic are already causing disputes.
But even more dangerous than any of that is what this means for the rest of the world. The melting of the ice up north means rising sea levels. Everywhere. More on that, below.