Global warming may open Northwest Passage to shipping

Global warming may melt arctic ice enough to make the legendary Northwest Passage a viable trade route, trimming almost 40 percent (roughly two weeks) off the current Asia-to-Europe route, which involves a large detour down through either the Suez or Panama canals. Some view this as a bright spot in the otherwise grim report released this week on the impact of global warming on the Arctic. Enviros aren’t so sure. The route would inevitably involve large oil tankers navigating narrow channels filled with ice. “The question is not whether an accident is going to happen but when and where,” said Samantha Smith of the World Wildlife Fund, and “we do not know how to clean an oil spill on ice.” The melting could also open the area to further oil drilling (oh, the irony!). Anyhoo, none of this will happen for 30 or 40 years, and by then we’ll no doubt have any number of global catastrophes to worry about.

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