The melting ice in the polar region has made it easier for ships to plow through its water for longer periods each year, increasing Arctic shipping. But transport and energy experts from the University College, London have closely studied the impact on the environment from an increased Arctic shipping, and the economic gains in allowing unrestrained passage of ships from the newly created routes.
They have given a conservative opinion that has determined that there is a need to thoroughly assess the various factors before making a decision. They have concluded that there has to be a proper assessment of the environmental impact and the immediate commercial benefits from opening up new lanes to Arctic shipping.
Researchers have also expressed the need to have more incentives that will drive the development of newer technologies to make green technologies and fuels more viable.
The Arctic region continues to be the fastest-changing region on earth. The seas are free of ice for longer periods each year and this has opened up the possibility of shortened ocean routes even in the winter. The shorter routes translate directly to lesser use of fuel.
Arctic Shipping Routes May Be Open For Longer Periods
Arctic shipping is now confined to the summer months but there have been changes each year which has opened up the prospect of open routes around the year. If global warming is not limited to a rise of 1.5-2C as set out in the Paris Agreement, the ice cover in the Arctic region could be a distant memory.
The study has looked at Arctic shipping from two scenarios. The first is the normal one where ships would run on conventional fuels. The second is a policy specifically for the fragile Arctic circle where ships would have to run on renewable energy.
The impact of fossil fuels is considerably high and proves expensive in the long run when considerations other than immediate costs are factored in. The impact of fossil fuels on the health and environment, and its contribution to pollution, and the creation of greenhouse gases make them unfeasible in the long run.
This balance of the economic costs with the environmental costs in deciding the viability of Arctic shipping is significant. The study has thrown up how the choice of certain technologies could benefit the environment. It is time now for the concerned governments to intervene and prevent the economic benefits riding roughshod over the environmental costs of Arctic shipping.