Canadians Should Root For Global Warming*

*note Global Warming is VERY BAD and title is sarcasm.


800px-Northwest_passage.jpg

Flashback to 1992, it’s early in the morning and a decrepit high school teacher stands before a class discussing the finer points of history. In the back row sits a smart ass, me, not listening and telling himself why should a future marine biologist pay attention in history class. Fast forward 15 years and the marine biologist wishes he remembers more about the discussion on the Northwest Passage. Unfortunately, all that runs through my brain are Charlie Brown’s teachers.

If you are like me and bit foggy on the Northwest Passage, here is a five cent refresher. The British coined the term Northwest Passage for the potential northern oceanic pass that would allow vessels to move between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The earliest explorations for the fabled passage were by Cortes in 1539. The late 1500′s were marked by British explorers, Martin Frobisher, Humphrey Gilbert, and John Davis.  Several expeditions followed, all with little success of finding the passage but tempered by the acquisition of new lands. Some attempts lead to deaths of entire crews. Notable of these is the Sir John Franklin expedition in which all of the crew members were lost to starvation, scurvy, cannibalism, and lead poisoning from food sealed in tins. The first to transverse the Northwest Passage was Sir Robert McClure using a combination of both sledge and ship. Ironically this was done during the search for Franklin’s team in which McClure’s own ship became trapped in the ice for three winters. The passage was finally conquered entirely by sea by the Norwegian Amundsen in 1906. However the route being both slow and shallow at many spots was commercially impractical. Over 100 years later and global warming is heating both the northern oceans and territorial disputes over the region.


icecap24.jpg

In 2003, NASA’ Goddard Institute for Space Studies released startling satellite images show the decreasing ice cap in the Arctic (above image). The September ice extent trend for 1979-2004 declined by 7.7 percent per decade (Stroeve et al. 2005). The year 2005 set a new record low for Arctic sea ice, dropping the estimated decline in end-of-summer Arctic sea ice to approximately 8 percent per decade. Even five-day running mean sea ice extent for July through September for the years 2002-2005 show decreases over the mean from the previous 21 years (below).


nsidc_sea_ice_2005.gif

Air temperatures over the Arctic show striking anomalies in 2006, similar to recent previous years, and in some area are 5 degrees C above normal (below).


20060823_temp2006thumb.gif


All this global warming and reduced ice pack means a commercially viable, Northwest Passage is becoming more feasible and who actually owns it more disputed. Canada claims the waters of the Northwest Passage are within their territorial waters. The U.S. refuses such and in 1985 sailed the Polar Sea without obtaining permission from Canada provoking the response of a official declaration in 1986 reaffirming Canada’s claim. In 1988 the Arctic Co-operation Agreement between the two countries was established based on the previous quarrel stating the United States will not send any more icebreakers through the passage without Canada’s consent, and Canada will always give that consent

Stephen Harper, serving as the Prime Minister of Canada, campaigned with the agenda of increasing Canada’s presence and strengthening their claim in the Northwest Passage. Currently, this includes the construction eight Polar Class 5 Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, at cost of 3 billion dollars (US), and the establishment of a deep water port in the far North in Nunavut (map below).


NWT-Nunuvut-map.jpg

“Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it. Because Canada’s Arctic is central to our national identity as a northern nation. It is part of our history. And it represents the tremendous potential of our future,” said Prime Minister Harper further stating “In defending our nation’s sovereignty, nothing is as fundamental as protecting Canada’s territorial integrity; our borders, our airspace and our waters.”

But Northerners are questioning these tactics stating it relies too much on military spending and not enough on economic development. The U.S. has responded by the promise to increase its naval fleet of ships and other craft in the Arctic, the day after Canada promised to build the new vessels. But wait it is not just about the passage.

As much as a quarter of the world’s oil and gas supplies could be in the region, Rear-Admiral Brian Salerno of the U.S. Coast Guard said today, citing statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey. Global warming in the Arctic has “implications for national energy security,” he said.

To complicate the matter further, Russia is also claiming a majority of the Arctic at their territory. The claim is based on new scientific findings of a geological connection between Russia’s land mass and an underwater ridge extending over the North Pole.

“The Lomonosov Ridge forms an inalienable part of Russia’s Siberian platform,” institute deputy director Viktor Posyolov was quoted by ITAR-Tass as saying.

Dr. M (1620 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





,
10 comments on “Canadians Should Root For Global Warming*
  1. Please don’t say “Brit” in a serious article. You wouldn’t write about the economic policy of the “Chink” or “Jap” governments with a straight face, would you?

  2. Great up-to-date article, esp.,since I now live in Canada. derek: It’s funny about sensitivities…. you just never know….people still say Scot, Yank, Canuck, etc., and I don’t take offence to being referred to as a Pole instead of the more formal Polish. When does it become pejorative? Just wondering. It’s something to look at and learn I guess…

  3. And ‘Brit’ is used by the British themselves. Unlike ‘Chink’, which is a debasement of the actual name, and ‘Jap’, which has a tainted history and shouldn’t be used because of the associations, ‘Brit’ doesn’t really have negative connotations to it.

    It’s the type of word that is offensive or not based entirely on who uses it and how. It’s informal, which may constitute the only real reason to avoid it.

  4. On behalf of all the Canadians who are trying to reason with our fellow citizens and show them that a hotter climate will be a bad thing, and we should try and prevent it as much as possible, I say :

    Thanks, you’re a big help.

    Seriously, don’t even joke about it. The upside : an international shipping route. The downside : flooded coastlines, ecological devastation, millions of well-armed americans looking for a scapegoat, worldwide famine/war…NO, we shouldn’t be rooting for global warming. Part of why this article is in the “top five” most emailed list is surely the deniers and idiots passing it around, saying, “See, Global warming will be awesome for Canada, this scientist person ever agrees!”. A pox upon thee

  5. This is interesting and I hope you’ll follow its progress or lack thereof. The “lengthy and complicated process”, “that the ridge is an extension of their continental shelf”.
    All I can say at this point is Oh brother!

  6. A pox upon thee? That is bit rough. Anybody who reads this regularly know both my stance on Global Warming and my tendency for sarcasm. Totally agree with the statements. But the name of the game to bring people are titles that catch the eye. Perhaps they come here to just look at what the hell I meant but maybe they stick around and get some information. Relax.

  7. Uh, I can’t say the sarcasm was totally obvious in this post. I kept waiting for it. Yes, you show pictures of the change in ice cap and average temp – which alarmed me, but I care about global warming already. I think the average person who thinks global warming is a myth or great will read this and think “see, here’s a scientist who is outlining the benefits of global warming for Canada”. Someone who is not sure what they think about global warming might think the same. It isn’t obvious, at least to me, what side you are on from this post alone. I mean, I know what side you are on, and I thought the title had to be sarcastic…but it reads like a history lesson about the NW passage that ends with “and now Canada will have an easy passage thanks to global warming!” with the ironic commentary well hidden.

  8. Fact is that global warming will lead to some countries being better off. Canada could well be one of those countries. No reason to hide it or ignore it. It looks like the bad far outweighs the good in the worldwide changes in climate but some areas could benefit.

    We just might need those areas…

Comments are closed.