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The Opening of the Northwest Passage Causes Concern for the Renewable Energy

Throughout September it has been widely reported that global warming is to blame for a record reduction in sea ice which covers the famous Northwest Passage, providing a shipping link between the Pacific and Atlantic. The Renewable Energy Centre also today voiced its concerns about the consequences of this region being free from ice.

Kenilworth, United Kingdom, October 17, 2007 --( There can be no doubt that the notoriously impenetrable Northwest Passage has for the last five years, seen a rapid decrease in the amount of sea ice during the summer and within the last two years has seen a massive reduction reaching 1 million square metres.

The Northwest Passage has only been monitored since satellite technology was introduced in 1979, thus records regarding sea ice trends only currently span 30 years. Although this has provided valuable information it is inevitably hard to gauge whether the recent melting is entirely due to climate change. It has been thought that the Artic region was warmer in the late 1930’s than it is now which could have produced the same effects in the Northwest Passage but no records exist to confirm this. The Renewable Energy Centre stated that while this is speculation, it is important to see this melting of sea ice in the context of the earth’s temperature trends over many years and not just the last thirty.

However, The Renewable Energy Centre did confirm that it is inevitable that climate change will have had an impact on this sought after region as scientists have highlighted the speed with which the sea ice has reduced over the last few years. The increase in the scale of melting ice in the last year has been calculated at an area of land seven times the size of England. Original predictions stated that the area would be completely ice free by 2070 but some reports estimate this has now reduced to the year 2030.

Although the opening of the passage greatly benefits shipping traffic by saving around 6000 miles in a typical journey from Asia to Europe; already territorial arguments are beginning to emerge about shipping routes and sovereignty.

The Renewable Energy Centre also voiced its concern that the opening of this region could also lead to further fossil fuel mining as the area is known to be rich in oil and gas. It is the consumption of these fuels which many would argue have been the contributing factor in causing the sea ice to melt so drastically. Dr Serreze from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre agrees “Its really rather disappointing when we talk about 25 percent of the worlds oil and gas reserves being under the Artic when the loss of sea ice is the reason why we can get to it.”

It is the threat of increased mining which has caused The Renewable Energy Centre to voice its concern. Richard Simmons, Managing Director said “At a time when the world is striving to reduce carbon emissions and respond effectively to global warming, the last thing we need is a rush to harvest more fossil fuels which will only serve to counteract the measures already in place. There is a long way to go before we truly understand the effects of global warming and how much more we will need to do in order to combat its consequences.”

The Renewable Energy said that is was dedicated to providing information, solutions and resources on all renewable technologies and strongly supported the restriction of any fossil fuel mining in the Northwest Passage over the coming years.

More information can be found at

Contact Information
The Renewable Energy Centre
Angela Gallacher
+44 (0) 1926 865835

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