Northwest Passage

Published 16 Mar 2017

Among any other regions around the globe, it is the arctic region that is vulnerable the most to climate change and the effects can immediately be seen on the economic, social, environmental and physical aspects of the arctic region. It was identified that around 5oC is the warming trend in the arctic region based on the recent data collected which is very much detrimental for the welfare of the said region. Actually, the warming of the arctic region is only concentrated at latitudes north of 70o and this phenomenon is pronounced in Eurasian arctic area based from various model simulations used by researchers not to mention that the distribution of sea-ice has been decreasing from 3-5% per decade for the past thirty years (Shimmield 1-2). Moreover, it is being expected by the authorities that the sea-ice season will start to become short due to the said significant increase in the temperature of the said region. Even during the autumn and winter season, seasons wherein thick sea-ice is being expected, the extent of sea-ice exhibits slight downward trend for the past decades.

Furthermore, the said increase in the temperature of the arctic region causes negative effects on the equilibrium condition of arctic food web since sea-ice plays a vital role in the production of algae which serves as the food for many aquatic animals living in the said region (Clarke & Harris 9-10). In this regard, a lot of marine animals in the arctic region are already on the brink of experiencing food shortages due to the unsuitable nature of arctic water for the production of algae which can eventually affect the number of marine animals in the next coming years in the said region. Aside from this, the depletion of ozone reduces the photosynthesis in the surfaces of arctic waters from 10-15% which might boost the decrease of the number of marine animals in the arctic region due to food shortages. In this regard, a lot of foreign policies have been implemented by various concerned countries to minimize the effect of climate change to the welfare of arctic region (Becket, et al. 5-7).

Aside from the raised negative effects of temperature raise in the arctic region, it also provides gains on the part of the commercial shipping lines. The diminishing extent of sea-ice in the arctic region might provide an avenue for the region to become navigable for longer periods in the near future. In short, the arctic region can now be used more often by commercial shipping line when traveling from the Southeast Asia to Western Europe (Christensen 6-7). It was identified that the travel route from the Southeast Asia going to Western Europe via Panama Canal equals 12, 600 nautical miles; while on the other hand, the travel route from Southeast Asia going to Western Europe via the Northwest Passage of the Canadian Arctic is only 7,900 nautical miles (Macnab 1-2). Imagine the significant cut on the travel time a commercial shipping company could get if the arctic region can be more often navigable. With the said decrease in the navigational time required to travel from the Southeast Asia to Western Europe would provide lower operational cost on the part of the commercial shipping lines in moving cargo between the said two regions. Moreover, the reduction on the thickness of sea-ice in the arctic region would give way for the easy extraction of hydrocarbons and minerals on the Canadian Arctic, as well as it provide ease on loading the said resources into the holds of bulk carriers that will be transport to southern markets.

Furthermore, the said increase in the navigability of the arctic region might provide greater trading transaction between the Southeast Asia and Western Europe which later on will provide impressive economic growth on both regions. In this regard, even though there are a lot of negative effects that global warming imposes on the welfare of the arctic region, to some extent there are still benefits that can be derived out of the said phenomenon to think that most of the negative effects that scientist has been raising regarding global warming are still speculations and can only be verified in the near future.


  • Becket, Emily, Kelmelis, John, & Kirtland, Sandra “Workshop on the Foreign Policy Implications of Arctic Warming.” U.S. Geological Survey. (2005): 5-7
  • Clarke, Andrew, & Harris, Colin M. “Polar Marine Ecosystems: Major Threats and Future Change.” Foundation for Environmental Conservation. (2002): 9-10
  • Christensen, Kyle D. “Arctic Maritime Security and Defense: Canadian Northern Opportunities and Challenges.” Defense R&D Canada Operational Research Division. (2005): 6-7
  • Macnab, Ron “Canada’s Arctic Waterways: Future Shipping Crossroads.” Canadian Polar Commission. (2004): 1-2
  • Shimmield, Graham “Climate Change and Human Impacts on the Marine Environment and Ecosystems of the Arctic.” Scottish Association for Marine Science. (2005): 1-2
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