The Rush to Exploit an Increasingly Ice-Free Arctic

The Rush to Exploit an Increasingly Ice-Free Arctic

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Every time a new sea ice extent record for Arctic melting is broken, the same question comes up: how long until it’s gone? That is, how long will it be before the Arctic Ocean is functionally ice-free in the summer, legitimately opening the once-fabled Northwest Passage?

The fact is, we don’t know. Climate models continue to underestimate the rate of sea ice loss we’re observing, leaving researchers to hazard less scientific guesses. Many estimate that day will come around 2030, but some others push it out to 2070. Regardless, Arctic sea ice is changing—and fast. The prospects of open shipping routes and newly-accessible resources have corporations chomping at the bit and governments racing to prepare the way. Three (open access) articles in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists describe the outlook for a changing Arctic from the perspectives of the US, Russia, and Canada. All parties have at least one view in common—things will get complicated.

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