The economic impact of Arctic melt

by on March 7, 2008 at 8:01 am in Current Affairs | Permalink

The world is about to get a lot more real estate and also some new water lanes:

The shipping shortcuts of the Northern Sea Route (over Eurasia) and the
Northwest Passage (over North America) would cut existing oceanic
transit times by days, saving shipping companies — not to mention
navies and smugglers — thousands of miles in travel. The Northern Sea
Route would reduce the sailing distance between Rotterdam and Yokohama
from 11,200 nautical miles — via the current route, through the Suez
Canal — to only 6,500 nautical miles, a savings of more than 40
percent. Likewise, the Northwest Passage would trim a voyage from
Seattle to Rotterdam by 2,000 nautical miles, making it nearly 25
percent shorter than the current route, via the Panama Canal. Taking
into account canal fees, fuel costs, and other variables that determine
freight rates, these shortcuts could cut the cost of a single voyage by
a large container ship by as much as 20 percent — from approximately
$17.5 million to $14 million — saving the shipping industry billions
of dollars a year. The savings would be even greater for the megaships
that are unable to fit through the Panama and Suez Canals and so
currently sail around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.

Here is the full article, which is interesting throughout; if you read only five magazine-like articles this year, this should be one of them.  How about this bit?

Between 1958 and 1992, Russia dumped 18 nuclear reactors into the Arctic Ocean, several of them still fully loaded with nuclear fuel.

I might add that, historically, struggles over new territory tend to bring conflict.  The creation of new Arctic "territory" is one of the most important issues in the world right now.

1 spencer March 7, 2008 at 10:04 am

Reportedly the Russians have been planting flags on the floor of parts of the Arctic Ocean and claiming it as their territory.

2 stuart March 7, 2008 at 10:16 am

It’s only march, how do you know one of the top 5 articles of the year?

3 Peter March 7, 2008 at 11:20 am

The savings would be even greater for the megaships that are unable to fit through the Panama and Suez Canals and so currently sail around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.

No ships are too large to fit through the Suez Canal. Some of the very largest supertankers can’t quite make it when fully loaded, but they work around that issue by offloading some of their oil into a pipeline when they enter the canal and picking up an equivalent amount from the pipeline at the other end.

4 Asif Dowla March 7, 2008 at 11:54 am

“The creation of new Arctic “territory” is one of the most important issues in the world right now.” I disagree.

The most important issue will be how the melting of ice will increase sea level and wipe out parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. If you saw what happened in Gaza a few weeks ago–people breaking down the border and move into Egypt, multiply that by several fold.

This will not be considered important issue because it does not affect “us,” only the remote “them.”

5 Eric March 7, 2008 at 12:09 pm

So what do we louse as the water goes up. This is only the upside. There is a clear down side as pointed out above. What if Rotterdam, is no longer functional? (water goes up, dikes fail) Seems like what the BlackSwan’s that might come up should be looked VERY hard here.
just my $.02.

6 James A. Donald March 7, 2008 at 2:21 pm

You assume global warming will continue. The most accurate measure of global warming are satellite measurements, which indicate global temperatures have been constant for the last ten years or so, and may now be falling. Present ice levels are pretty much what they typically have been throughout the twentieth century.

The urban heat island effect is several degrees centigrade, which makes it impossible to get an accurate measure of global temperature from weather stations unless one carefully selects stations, and there are not enough known good stations. Sea surface measurements and satellite measurements provide a more accurate measure.

If you look at the graph of ice coverage one way, there is a trend to lesser ice levels. Look at it another way, no obvious trend. We had one summer of much reduced ice levels – an unusual, but far from unprecedented summer. And now, back to normal levels of ice.

7 8 March 7, 2008 at 3:12 pm

What is with all the AGW skepticism here? They haven’t burnt all you guys at the stake yet for heresy?

Their application for carbon credits was lost in the UN bureaucracy. It’s burn skeptics at the stake or heat their homes this winter, but I’m sure they’ll try again next year.

8 aaron March 7, 2008 at 3:59 pm

[oops. I’d apologize for the typo, but if I got in that habit I’d never get anything done.]

Anyway, you don’t look at possible Black Swans. By definition, you can’t. They are completely unexpected.

They also don’t tend to follow the narratives we like to assign to them 😉

9 Varangy March 7, 2008 at 4:09 pm

My understanding is that TC does not put much stock into NNT’s ideas.

10 ad March 7, 2008 at 5:26 pm

mpowell: I think we can safely trust the Canadians with a shipping lane. It is a rather more predictable country than, say, Egypt.

Which is an interesting thought: If the worlds shipping lanes pass through, and oil comes from, Canada rather than the Middle East, will we finally be able to forget about the latter location?

11 Paul N March 7, 2008 at 6:13 pm

I suspect that the fee to cross the NW Passage (payable to Canada) will exceed the fee to cross the Panama Canal in 2030.

12 Brainwarped March 7, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Asif Dowla: “The creation of new Arctic “territory” is one of the most important issues in the world right now.” means global warming will spread water over lowlands.

Also, I did some research the other week about global warming… There is a global warming TREND for the past 200 years, ever since the “little ice age” started to end. The issue is the warming correlates with increased carbon dioxide found in ice, NOT emissions!

As is my understanding, it was not until 2000 when carbon dioxide emissions exceeded levels from 200 years ago when the US slowed its burning of almost all the forest for energy.

Anyone who has taken intro to stats knows that correlation does not equal causation! Major volcanic eruptions would cause global cooling AND increases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere(of which there has not been in 200 years). Wouldn’t these periods in the ice measurements show high enough P values to make it immoral to accept the correlation hypothesis? These are written off as outliers, as is this past year where we saw a .5 degree Celsius DECREASE in average global temperatures(as large as the increase in temperature over the past 150 years).

This decrease was POSSIBLY due to the failure of the last sunspot cycle to reach a peak (correlating with hotter weather). We may be going into another “little ice age”, and the global warming we experienced for the past 200 years may have saved more lives than it potentially destroyed!! Only the next 2 decades will tell. Either way, the solution is simple: we need to invest more in Pro-life research.

Also, don’t worry about the arctic, the US will definitely control that territory as it does the others.

13 odograph March 7, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Mathew, do you notice that people bet all the time on Wall Street? Some of them win, but it’s harder to tell when they are right for the right reasons. Certainly though, the ability to find a market for a bet does not prove truth.

Jody, you might have quite interesting opinions, but you know, we in engineering rely not just on skill but domain knowledge. If you prefer your answers (for bridge building or climate change) from those without the domain knowledge (or those that dabble) I’d worry.

Some of this gets back to a sort of “successful man’s disease.” Some of those who have skills or have succeeded, still retain the ability to judge themselves honestly in a new domain. Others are a little … presumptuous.

I saw that when we all cashed our dot-com options, and some of the best engineers blew their money on bad investments the fastest.

Heh, so having seen engineers as investors should I be ready to see them (or other engineers) suddenly set themselves as climate scientists?

14 aaron March 7, 2008 at 9:51 pm

odograph, if you’d take a step back, you’d see that’s one of the points that Jody (and Matthew?) are making. People are being presumptuous (to the point of absurdity).

Fooled by Randomness is a very simple book. It gets very repetitive after about 50 pages. Black Swan is a much better read. Point is similar. I recommend reading one of them again with a more relaxed and open mind.

15 Sune March 8, 2008 at 5:51 am

1. Burn oil
2. Melt ice
3. Save oil by going over America
4. …
5. Profit!

16 JSK March 8, 2008 at 8:30 am

I thought the biggest issue with the melting of the north pole is the new oil and gas resources it releases for the surronding countries (Denmark/Greenland, Canada, the U.S., Norway and Russia) not so much the shortening of shipping lanes.

17 Matthew March 8, 2008 at 10:18 am

Odograph,

Perhaps because of my training as a scientist, I am much less impressed with the “scientific consensus” than you are. Childbirth fever, the existence of meteorites and ball lightning, plate tectonics, and helicobacter pylori are all great examples of an utterly flawed “consensus view”.

On the other hand, I’d be happy to make the $100 “egg on your face” bet anytime. So at least my beliefs have consequences — apparently your faith in the popular AGW theory doesn’t extend far enough to take some money from me and make an AGW skeptic look bad. Or maybe you just don’t believe it as much as you think you do. Perhaps there is a niggling bit of doubt gnawing at the back of your mind — why have the satellite temps stopped rising over the last decade, why have they begun to fall, why did CO2 emissions never match up with temperature trends over the 20th century, why is the best evidence for AGW and the “hockey stick” from hokey paleoclimate tree ring data and urban ground temperature stations in heat pollution hotspots?

18 odograph March 8, 2008 at 10:46 am

Ooo!

What do experts in that area of expertise say?

One of the world’s largest insurers warned today [November 2005] of the economic costs of global warming.

“Climate change will significantly affect the health of humans and ecosystems and these impacts will have economic consequences,” concludes a new study cosponsored by Swiss Re, a global re-insurance company.

Sorry about the missing t in your name Matthew, as you can see I’m a somewhat haphazard typist.

19 Brainwarped March 8, 2008 at 11:40 am

did you know that by drinking two glasses of milk per day, you will lose weight? It was a diet advertisement for milk, sponsored by farmers. Last time I checked, adding 300 calories to your diet everyday will make you gain weight. I can’t weight until Milkyways advertise the same thing!

20 odograph March 8, 2008 at 11:47 am

Geez Brain, can you follow your argument to its logical conclusion? It makes no difference if some corps promote lies. To square the argument that “a corp said it so it must be false” you have to prove that everything a corp ever says is always false.

(I have no idea how milk-drinking affects your hunger for other, more calorie rich, foods.)

21 aaron March 8, 2008 at 1:44 pm

And how does what he says support your contention?

22 odograph March 8, 2008 at 2:18 pm

It isn’t just the National Academies in the US, right? You have to also disbelieve the British Royal Society? And on, and on?

(I think some of the “misleading arguments” in their list have made this page.)

23 aaron March 8, 2008 at 3:10 pm

Why do you continue to contend that you have to disbelieve them to disagree with them?

24 odograph March 8, 2008 at 3:43 pm

Coming back to this country, we’ve got the American Physical Society.

You have, no doubt, a reason for putting them on the “don’t believe” list as well?

25 aaron March 8, 2008 at 4:37 pm

RS, sorry. Losing control of my fingers.

26 bee March 9, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Odograph-

Science is not based upon consensus, it is built upon a collection of facts that form a pattern which are then mapped to a theoretical domain (Universities do employ social conventions to create and enforce consensus for different reasons than the advancement of knowledge). We typically also require a theory to be the only parsimonious explanation of the phenomena (it is replaced when another theory can more parsimoniously explain the pattern). This requirement assures us that we have not specified a problem to narrowly that it affords itself to many possible explanations.

What does this have to do with AGW and your misguided grasping at authority figures? First, you will note that in the process there is no step that seeks validation by the experts. Second it offers us a possible explanation as to why a consensus is unlikely to arise in the practice of science. Specifically, a theory may not fully capture the phenomena being investigated. Either by way of unexplained behaviors in the system or more than possible explanation. Third, AGW must prove superior to the alternative explanation, natural variation of the earth’s temperature.

Your continued assertion suggests that you do not understand science and prefer dogma blessed by the authorities (Some Papists would be proud of you.). Please feel free to believe this if it makes you feel secure, but please refrain from asserting that you practicing anything called scientific thought when you disparage Jody, Matthew, et al for their practice of reasoning.

27 bee March 9, 2008 at 9:17 pm

Odograph-

No, but I assume you made that inference because it is how you prefer to practice your science 🙂

28 odograph March 9, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Is that your paper? That would be pretty wild.

If not though, I’ve sort of noticed that papers average out over time. That is the process of consensus, that changing indicators (a swinging compass?) settle on a final course over time.

===

Maybe I shouldn’t be mean, but really you guys give me such an asymmetric argument. I can say that I don’t really know the science, but that I can defer to the National Academies, NASA, the Royal Society, the American Physical Society, etc. … heck the Supreme Court.

I can be humble.

On the other hand, you poor guys have to say “no, don’t belive them, believe us!”

Well, who the heck are you, and what makes you the biggest guns in climate science?

29 Canadian October 9, 2008 at 10:45 pm

I think its crazy how theres a dispute over who owns the NorthWest passage. How can the U.S dispute that Canada owns its own land. There is a portion of the artic that has been considered part of Canada since the creation of the nation and now all of a sudden there is economic potential in the area and the U.S doesn’t recognize this. It’s Canada we should reap the benifts of our resources just like you should gain the benifts of yours.

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