HELSINKI, Finland, Aug. 26 (UPI) — Receding arctic ice from global warming may open new avenues for tourism and trade and could reveal vast new natural resource reserves, researchers say.
The northern ice cover is becoming smaller and thinner, and scientists predict the Arctic Ocean could lose its icecap completely during summertime by the end of the century at the latest, and possibly as early as the 2030s, Finland’s Helsingen Sonomat reported.
Twenty years from now it may be possible to travel to the North Pole by ship, they say. Russia has already organized luxury cruises to the North Pole in its nuclear-powered icebreakers, but the next generation may be able to reach the top of the world in their pleasure boats, they say.
More important would be what the opening of the sea channels could mean for world trade. The Northeast Passage along Russia’s north coast and the Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic archipelago would shorten the sea journey from Asia to Europe and to the east coast of North America by as much as a third.
The receding ice could also allow access to rich natural resources.
More than a quarter of the world’s catches of fish currently come from Arctic waters.
And an estimated 20- to 30 percent of the world’s untapped natural gas resources and 5- to 13 percent of its oil resources are in the Arctic region, researchers say.
All this new opportunity would require the cooperation of the world’s countries, politicians in Arctic states say.
In April the World Wide Fund for Nature published a report on questions concerning the administration of the Arctic Ocean.
“Arctic states must remember that the Arctic Ocean is not their backyard,” report author Professor Timo Koivurova of the Arctic Centre of the University of Lapland said. “International maritime law already guarantees the commercial fleets and fishing fleets of all countries in the world access to the area. It would be sensible to get them to commit to a treaty concerning the Arctic region.”
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