Melting ice in the Arctic Ocean could create new trade routes in international waters, reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry and weaken Russia’s control over trade routes across the world, study finds ‘Arctic. –ScienceDaily

With climate change rapidly warming the world’s oceans, the future of the Arctic Ocean looks bleak. Climate models show that parts of the Arctic that were once ice-covered year-round are warming so rapidly that they will be ice-free for months in just two decades. Climate change in the Arctic will put countless species that thrive in sub-zero temperatures at risk, scientists say.

Another critical consequence of melting ice in the Arctic? The potential for shorter, more environmentally friendly maritime trade routes that bypass the Russian-controlled Northern Sea Route.

In a new study, two Brown University climatologists worked with a University of Maine Law School jurist to predict how melting Arctic Ocean ice could affect the regulation of shipping routes over the next decades. They projected that by 2065 the seaworthiness of the Arctic will increase so much that it could create new trade routes in international waters, not only reducing the carbon footprint of the shipping industry, but also weakening the Russian control over trade in the Arctic.

The study was published on Monday June 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“There is no scenario in which melting ice in the Arctic is good news,” said Amanda Lynch, lead author of the study and professor of earth, environmental and planetary sciences. to Brown. “But the sad reality is that the ice is already receding, these roads are opening up and we need to start thinking critically about the legal, environmental and geopolitical implications.”

Lynch, who has studied climate change in the Arctic for nearly 30 years, said she initially worked with Xueke Li, a postdoctoral research associate at Brown’s Institute for Environment and Society. , to model four sailing scenarios based on four likely outcomes of global actions to halt climate change in the coming years. Their projections showed that unless world leaders succeed in limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the next 43 years, climate change will likely open up several new routes through international waters by the middle of this century.

According to Charles Norchi — director of the Center for Oceans and Coastal Law at Maine Law, visiting fellow at Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and one of the study’s co-authors — these changes could have major implications for world trade and world politics.

Norchi explained that since 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has given Arctic coastal states increased authority over major shipping routes. Article 234 of the convention states that in the name of “the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution from ships”, countries whose coasts are close to Arctic shipping lanes have the ability to regulate shipping traffic from the route, as long as the area remains ice – covered for the majority of the year.

Norchi said that for decades Russia has used Article 234 for its own economic and geopolitical interests. A Russian law requires that all ships passing through the Northern Sea Route be piloted by Russians. The country also requires passing vessels to pay tolls and notify in advance of their intention to use the route. Heavy regulation is one of the many reasons why major shipping lines often bypass heavy regulations and high route costs and instead use the Suez and Panama Canals – longer, but cheaper trade routes and easier.

But as the ice near Russia’s northern coast begins to melt, Norchi said, so will the country’s grip on shipping in the Arctic Ocean.

“The Russians will, I’m sure, continue to invoke Article 234, which they will try to support with their might,” Norchi said. “But they will be challenged by the international community, because Article 234 will cease to apply if there is no ice-covered area for most of the year. Not only that, but with the melting ice, shipping will leave Russian territorial waters and into international waters.If this happens, there is not much Russia can do, because the outcome depends on climate change and shipping economics.

According to Lynch, previous studies have shown that Arctic routes are 30 to 50 percent shorter than Suez Canal and Panama Canal routes, with transit time reduced by around 14 to 20 days. This means that if the international waters of the Arctic warm enough to open up new routes, shipping companies could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by around 24% while saving money and time.

“These potential new Arctic routes are a useful thing to consider when you remember when the ship Ever Given ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking an important shipping route for several weeks,” Lynch said. “The diversification of trade routes – especially considering new routes that cannot be blocked, as they are not canals – gives the global maritime infrastructure much more resilience.”

And it’s better to ask questions about the future of shipping now, Lynch said, rather than later, given the time it will take to establish international laws. (For context, she said, it took the world’s governments 10 years to negotiate the Law of the Sea Convention.) Lynch hopes to start the conversation about the commercial future of the Arctic with Well-documented research could help world leaders make informed decisions. on protecting the Earth’s climate from future damage.

“Signaling these upcoming changes now could help prevent them from turning into a crisis that needs to be resolved quickly, which almost never goes well,” Lynch said. “To actually design international agreements with some forethought and deliberation is certainly a better way to go.”

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