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Global meltdown may clear the Passage

The Story

"Is there any doubt at all that the ice is melting?" asks Shelagh Rogers in this 2002 radio clip. The answer, according to her three guests, is no. The Northwest Passage is becoming increasingly ice-free, thanks to global warming. This is making it easier to manoeuvre the waterway, which means the shipping season will likely lengthen, and more ships will want to use the passage for commercial reasons. But how will this impact the question of sovereignty? And how will it affect the Inuit, who live there year-round?

Medium: Radio
Program: This Morning
Broadcast Date: July 25, 2002
Guests: Rob Huebert, Jose Kusugak, Pierre Leblanc
Host: Mary Ambrose
Duration: 19:01

Did You know?

• According to a Canadian government website, "Scientists predict many parts of the Arctic could be ice-free in summers by 2050." However, it may happen much earlier in the Northwest Passage, "which could see summertime open waters within five to 10 years, if not sooner." (2006)
• A 2002 cnn.com article speculated about environmental and sociological effects: "The combination of declining ice and dramatically increased ship traffic could alter the feeding habits of fish, seals and polar bears, further threatening the traditional way of life of the Inuit communities."

• Using the Northwest Passage as a shipping route from Europe to Asia would represent a significant savings in distance compared with the Panama Canal. From London to Tokyo via the Canal, the distance is about 23,000 kilometres; the same trip through the Passage is only 16,000 kilometres. Even travelling the other way – east through the Suez Canal – is longer than the Northwest Passage at 21,000 kilometres.


Breaking the Ice: Canada and the Northwest Passage more