Rhode. A new study conducted by a team of researchers at Brown University have discovered a series of consequences of the melting ice in the Arctic Ocean.

The findings of the research were published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’.
With climate change making an adverse impact on the environment, especially on oceans across the world, the fate of the Arctic Ocean looks horrid. Climate models have shown that parts of the Arctic that were once canvassed in ice all year are warming so quickly that they will be reliably ice-free for quite a long time in as not many as twenty years. Scientists say that the Arctic’s changing climate will imperil countless species that flourish in freezing temperatures.

According to researchers, another consequence of the melting ice in the Arctic Ocean could affect the regulation of shipping routes over the next few decades.

For the study, a couple of climate scientists at Brown University worked with a legal scholar at the University Of Maine School Of Law. They projected that by 2065, the Arctic’s traversability will increase so enormously that it could yield new shipping routes in worldwide waters — diminishing the shipping industry’s carbon footprints as well as weakening Russia’s control over trade in the Arctic.

This study’s lead author and a professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown, Amanda Lynch, said, “There’s no scenario in which melting ice in the Arctic is good news. But the unfortunate reality is that the ice is already retreating, these routes 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 almost 30 years, expressed that as an initial step, she worked with Xueke Li who is a postdoctoral research associate at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, to model four navigation route situations based on four likely results of global actions to halt climate change in the coming years. Their projections showed that unless global leaders effectively successfully constrain warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the course of the next 43 years, climate change will probably open up a few new routes through international waters by the middle of this century.

According to Charles Norchi, who is the director of the Center for Oceans and Coastal Law at Maine Law and a visiting scholar at Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, these changes could have significant ramifications for world trade and global politics.

Norchi explained that since 1982, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has given Arctic coastal states enhanced authority over primary shipping routes. Article 234 of the convention clearly states that in the name of “the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution from vessels,” countries whose coastlines are near-Arctic shipping routes have the ability to regulate the route’s maritime traffic, so long as the area remains ice-covered for the majority of the year.

And for decades Russia has used Article 234 for its own economic and geopolitical interests. One Russian law requires all vessels passing through the Northern Sea Route to be piloted by Russians. The country also requires that passing vessels pay tolls and provide advance notice of their plans to use the route. The heavy regulation is one among many reasons why major shipping companies often bypass the route’s heavy regulations and high costs and instead use the Suez and Panama canals — longer, but cheaper and easier, trade routes.

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

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

Lynch concluded by saying that it’s better to ask questions about the future of shipping now, rather than later, given how long it can take to establish international laws. She hopes that kicking off the conversation on the Arctic’s trade future with a well-researched scholarship might help world leaders make informed decisions about protecting the Earth’s climate from future harm.