It's likely not long before Arctic ice melt reaches levels where trans-Arctic shipment of goods is no longer headline-making, but commonplace. With that comes more black carbon air pollution from ships--soot to you and me--and, that means already disproportionately high levels of warming will increase and with those, more ice melting. A new report in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics highlights the issue:James Corbett, professor of marine science and policy at the University of Delaware, lead author of the study says,
One of the most potent short-lived climate forcers in diesel emissions is black carbon, or soot. Ships operating in or near the Arctic use advanced diesel engines that release black carbon into one of the most sensitive regions for climate change. (Science Codex)
Though it's certainly a wide range of possible impact, the study concludes that in a high-growth scenario this increased black carbon pollution could increase warming in the region by 17-78% by 2030.
As for how much additional shipping is likely to be diverted through the Arctic, the study projects that by 2030 2% of the world's ship traffic will be traveling through the region, increasing to 5% by 2050. That compares to the Suez Canal handling 4% of global shipping and the Panama Canal's 8%.
Though trans-Arctic shipping does reduce distance sailed substantially between some ports--between 25-50% in general--and therefore uses far less fuel and producing lower CO2 emissions, the report says further study is needed to determine what part of those emissions savings are negated by increasing soot pollution through the Arctic.
Lest you think that what happens in the Arctic stays in the Arctic, other recent research has shown a link between warming Arctic climate and more extreme weather conditions in mid-latitudes.
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More on Global Climate Change:
Norway to Ship Iron Ore Across Arctic to China - First Non-Russian Carrier to Use Northeast Passage
Northwest and Northeast Passages Are Open
Melting Arctic Ice Increases Permafrost Thaw Farther Inland Than Previously Thought
NASA Satellite Data Reveals Arctic Melting Season Now Nearly a Month Longer