There are winners and losers but more losers than winners.
Back in 2014 Iceland’s Prime Minister said that climate change would be good for Iceland, melted ice caps would, he said, increase food production and export opportunities for his arctic island. Laurence C. Smith, a geologist at UCLA has argued in The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future that the Nordic countries will benefit from rising sea levels and melting glaciers as mineral and oil deposits become available for exploitation. He is optimistic about what can be achieved if we exploit the opportunities that “frontier” regions like the Northern Rim of Scandinavia, Iceland, Russia, Canada and the USA offer. If you think this is fanciful consider the militarisation of the Arctic in recent years.
Until the end of the last century the Arctic Ocean was thought to be international territory, but nations are now staking sovereignty claims as the region becomes accessible. The Northwest Passage linking the northern Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean was first discovered in 1850 by Robert McClure and first navigated by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen 1903–1906. It was not until 2009 that reductions in the pack ice, as a result of climate change, has made the passage navigable in the summer months.
This has created a tourism opportunity – in August this year the cruise ship Crystal Serenity will in 32 days twice traverse the Northwest Passage from Anchorage to New York and back. Tourists aboard a traditional cruise ship, Crystal Cruises describe it as “the ultimate expedition for the true explorer!”. An opportunity to experience “vast landscapes of towering fjords, magnificent glaciers and rare wildlife sightings as you learn the Arctic culture and its fascinating people.”
As Michael Byers from the University of British Colombia has pointed out:
“There is something terribly ironic about taking advantage of climate change to see an ecosystem that is undergoing destruction…. The ship can only go because of climate change. As sea ice disappears so will the ecosystem based around it. This is extinction tourism. They are going to see animals before they disappear.” (Quoted in The Times 18 June 2016)
This cruise voyage is further proof that our climate is changing.
- Global record warm for 13th consecutive month
- The extent and depth of Arctic ice continues to fall
- The hottest temperature ever recorded in the India … 51C in Phalodi
Meanwhile, the Australia Institute has reported that the severe coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef is reducing interest amongst international tourists in travelling to Australia. Scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science has reported that the entire Great Barrier Reef was likely to be dead in 20 years. The Australia Institute estimates that the loss of overseas tourists could cost the industry a $1 billion a year.
Join us at WTM in November for panels on climate change and resilience.