According to a new study, something as small as a light icebreaker could go in the Arctic Ocean by the middle of the century, including straight over the North Pole, thanks to the ongoing effects of climate change. [NBC]
Ordinary vessels, which account for more than 99 percent of shipping traffic, could easily navigate the Northern Sea Route along the Russian coastline and, in some years, even find a route through the fabled Northwest Passage… the temptation is likely to prove irresistible to some shipping companies and adventurous tourists, which opens up new concerns about search and rescue infrastructure, the environmental impact from increased shipping traffic and the potential for oil spills, among other issues.
[Laurence C. Smith, a geographer and sea ice expert at the University of California, Los Angeles] and graduate student Scott Stephenson used the output of climate models to chart the fastest, most efficient, and realistic routes through the Arctic for different classes of ships that will become possible as more sea ice disappears each summer.[…]
The new findings, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate shipping companies willing to invest in light icebreaker technology, known as Polar Class 6 vessels, can avoid those fees by going over the North Pole or through the Northwest Passage.
Regular ships, too, will be able to navigate at least some of these routes unescorted. And, “it doesn’t matter whether we get serious about curbing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions or not,” Smith said. “Either way, the result is the same. The ice will thin sufficiently.”
The Mid-Atlantic states are bracing for a high-impact, heavy snowstorm starting late Tuesday and lasting through Wednesday. The storm has the potential to end Washington, D.C.’s longest snow drought on record. [Climate Central]
Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s new nominee for the Energy Department has argued that natural gas can serve as a “bridge fuel” to a lower-carbon future, rankling some in the environmental community. [WaPo]
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has announced he will sign two agreements that will render the city’s energy use coal-free by 2025. [Sierra Club]
A new op-ed in the Financial Times predicts peak oil demand could hit at less than 100 million barrels per day before 2020 and perhaps at a lower level even sooner. [FT]
The biological onset of spring could arrive up to five weeks earlier by 2100 in the northern U.S. than it does today, significantly altering ecosystems from Florida to Maine, according to a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters. [Climate Central]
An environmental group has told the European Union that it should ban the use of United Nations-approved carbon offsets from its emissions-trading system by 2020. [Bloomberg]
Climate change was a major driver behind a string of heat waves, bush fires, torrential rains, and floods that hit large sections of Australia in recent months, according to a report issued Monday by the government’s Climate Commission. [NYTimes]