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Northeast Passage Becomes Viable Trade Route 363

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the coastal-residents-drowning-but-trade-is-up dept.
Stirling Newberry writes "The New York Times reports on the continued expansion of the sea route along the Russian side of the Arctic Ocean. It was only in 2009 that outside ships were allowed to ply this lane, but Russians have used it since the early 20th century. What makes this year a landmark is that the polar ice cap is smaller at its September minimum than before, allowing large container ships and oil tankers — the backbone of sea commerce — to travel between Europe and Asia, saving time and money over the Suez route, as well as avoiding several politically unstable regions of the world. Putin has been pushing development along the route. While the northwest passage is only gradually opening, the opposite side of the Arctic Ocean looks set for expansion. Siberian Riviera anyone?"
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Northeast Passage Becomes Viable Trade Route

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  • Sure, all coastal cities might be gone in fifty years, but who cares; it's lovely spring weather at the pole.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sure, all coastal cities might be gone in fifty years, but who cares; it's lovely spring weather at the pole.

      No, we'll just have *new* coastal cities. Much cleaner and nicer ones that New York, for sure.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        No, we'll just have *new* coastal cities. Much cleaner and nicer ones that New York, for sure.

        Except, well, the entire population of New York would occupy the said new coastal city and those nearby, leading to New New York. I'm not so sure that's a good thing....

      • And they would have some awesome sights and caves for diving, too - good for tourism! ~

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Cities are easy enough to gradually rebuild and modify. The idea that those we have should stagnate as they are isn't particularly useful.

  • The sparring over oil rights, right up to the Pole have been hotting up.

    Russia, Iceland, Sweden, among others are looking at the prospect of drilling in the seas - which scares the heck out of me. One good chunk of ice and then what? I hope it proves too costly to attempt.

    • Well, for now, all exploratory holes up there have pretty much come up dry. The fabled cornucopia of arctic oil might well be just a dream. But the simple fact that all major players are going apeshit over the prospect of new, err, prospects up there seems to be a strong sign to me that a) global warming and b) peak oil is pretty much a fact. And that combination can pretty much scare the hell out of anyone with a brain....
      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        And that combination can pretty much scare the hell out of anyone with a brain....

        Yeah, I've had this scenario playing itself out in my brain for most of my life: the critters evolved far enough to be able to slightly escape the gravity well; then, they burned up all their resources, and were extinguished when the next big rock came too close to their planet.

        Worst part of it is that the oil companies contributed to this result, instead of extending the usable life of their scarce resources.

  • A non-event (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @04:40PM (#37754448)

    Actually quoting the register [theregister.co.uk]

    Impressive - if only it were true. The Northeast Passage has been opened for commerce since 1934 - and never 'closed'.

    Over the years hundreds of thousands of freighters have passed through, and after Russia put Soviet-era politics aside it was extended to foreign commerce in the 1990s

    So this is sort of non-story hype.

    • Re:A non-event (Score:5, Informative)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday October 18, 2011 @05:13PM (#37754836) Homepage

      Actually quoting the register [theregister.co.uk]

      Impressive - if only it were true. The Northeast Passage has been opened for commerce since 1934 - and never 'closed'.

      Over the years hundreds of thousands of freighters have passed through, and after Russia put Soviet-era politics aside it was extended to foreign commerce in the 1990s

      So this is sort of non-story hype.

      Not quite. Yes it's hyped (so is everything else). Note that the NE passage has 1) not been historically open all year round 2) often needed support from nuclear powered icebreakers 3) previously restricted to smaller vessels (no large tankers, no super max container ships).

      The fact that all three limitations are likely to go away on a permanent (or at least long term) basis IS a significant change.

      Further, if things continue apace (rapid warming of the Arctic as proposed by every single anthropogenic climate change theory) the NW passage will open for business in the next decade.

      • by EdZ (755139)

        as proposed by every single anthropogenic climate change theory

        And non-anthropogenic theories. It doesn't matter the hypothesised cause, the temperature rise is clear from the evidence.

  • Are we not coming off a solar activity peak?

    The armchair climatologist in me expects the ice sheets will return in the next 2-3 years and this will, once again, not be a shipping lane. The earth may be warming slightly, but without a high level of solar activity I don't think it will be enough to drive off the ice sheets.
    • Good thing we have real climatologists who actually think about things, do research, talk to others, make models and such. Armchair generals who don't even understand basic physics might make some big errors.

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      That has been looked at and it doesn't appear that even if the Sun went into a Maunder minimum type period it would be enough to stop global warming. How would a Solar Grand Minimum affect global warming. [skepticalscience.com]

    • by pnot (96038)

      Are we not coming off a solar activity peak?

      Nope. In fact, solar activity has been declining for most of the last decade [noaa.gov] and we are just starting to come out of the trough, but it looks as though this cycle will be much quieter than the previous one.

  • My engineer friend points out that if this saves fuel for large shippers, that should decrease global warming, resulting in a future closing of the passage to these largest ships, right? :)

    • My engineer friend points out that if this saves fuel for large shippers, that should decrease global warming, resulting in a future closing of the passage to these largest ships, right? :)

      Only if bulk shipping used an appreciable fraction of global fossil fuel use. From the Wikipedia article [wikimedia.org]:

      3.5 to 4 percent of all climate change emissions are caused by shipping.

      Furthermore, bunker fuel is high in sulfur. While sulfur dioxide pollution is generally not considered a good thing, it does produce aerosols that reflect light back into space and create some bit of cooling (think volcanic eruptions).

  • Sound travels extremely well and fast in water, and is close to inescapable to ocean life. The noise pollution produced by boats is having adverse effects on at least whales and dolphins: http://news.discovery.com/animals/whales-scream-noise-pollution.html [discovery.com] http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7003587/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/noise-pollution-disrupts-whale-communication/ [msn.com]

FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies.

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