Canadian Sovereignty: Climate change and politics in the Artic

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  • The fact that Canadian Arctic ice is melting is not in contention-it's the rate at which ice is melting and what melting ice means for the future of the Northwest Passage that ignite controversy. According to Huebert (2003). data from satellite imagery suggest that the rate of melt in the Canadian Arctic is greater than previously expected and is accelerating. These data, however, are not representative of the conditions present in the Northwest Passage, as they fail to account for the icebergs that meander southward from the Arctic Ocean into the lower reaches of the archipelago, where they block passages and create choke points. Despite the overall archipelagic warming trend, the Canadian Ice Service has not changed the definitions set in 1971 for the zone-date system, which organizes Arctic waters into sections based on a ship's ability to navigate during a specified period (Griffiths. 2004). This fact suggests that despite the Arctic warming trend, and despite the reduced ice cover throughout the archipelago's channels, conditions for navigation remain hazardous, and while different, they are not easier than the conditions existing in 1971. Otherwise. Transport Canada would update the Canadian Ice Service definitions to reflect improved navigation. In addition, ice melt patterns are not uniform throughout the archipelago, so prospective shippers face considerable uncertainty. For example, ice in the eastern Arctic is melting more slowly than in the western Arctic. And each winter, melting ceases until the following spring (roughly around June), so ice is always due to return.

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    Article (Published)
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    Attribution 4.0 International