Northwest Passage: climate change has opened a new route through Arctic

The navigator Anne Quéméré started at the beginning of July the first polar solar expedition. The route she is using was impracticable for a very long time.

From myth to reality

The Northwest Passage is a route across the sea that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through a maze of land, water and ice beyond the Arctic islands of Canada’s Far North. This seaway has long remained a myth and is not even drawn on any map. This extraordinary trip is a real challenge because from one year to the next the roads are changing and the ice sets out new paths deforming the vast Arctic archipelago. Sea temperature approximates 2° C and the atmosphere is around 5° C.

The landscape is definitely changing as global warming increases. The consequences of climate change and its corollary the tremendous melting of polar ice are now proven phenomena that can no longer be explained by the natural variability from one year to the next.

Solar Boat «Icade»

The Breton sailor Anne Quéméré has boarded on a solar boat powered by solar energy from the port of Tuktoyaktuk on the shores of the Beaufort Sea (Canada) to Pond Inlet in the northeast of the country for a journey of approximately 3,500 km. To face this new challenge the boat was equipped with 10 m² of photovoltaic modules lightweight, ultra-strong and resistant to harsh environments. Beside a personal achievement, the expedition should prove that activities can have a minimal impact on environment when care is duly taken regarding energy consumption.

A considerable opportunity

Since 2007 Northwest Passage is practicable during summer, thanks to climate change. “The stakes are high. Using it will shorten the current sea route between Europe and the Far East via the Suez Canal by at least 4,000 kilometers. In addition, the Beaufort Sea would contain up to a quarter of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves underground.”* says Ms Quéméré on her website. Interesting to note that melting can be a considerable opportunity for international routes and energy companies, the latter having an undisputable role to play in the said climate change. Why would they reduce production of greenhouse gas?

The sustainable development paradox

In the meantime, the nearby country, Canada, is working hard on renewable energies. They currently provide approximately 18.9% of total primary energy supply in Canada (OCDE countries average percentage being 9,6% in 2015). We note a remarkable increase in renewable energy generation capacity, other than hydroelectric power plants over the last ten years. Its wind capacity in 2015 is twenty times higher than it was in 2005. The combined capacity of wind, solar and biomass represents 11% of total Canadian generation capacity in 2015 although it was 2% in 2005. Canada was able to decrease annual greenhouse gas emissions from its electric power sector by 40% from 2010 to 2014. Will this be sufficient for the fifth largest world power consumer?

Using renewable energies is paramount. However, reducing power consumption is crucial. How can we expect anything else than greenhouse gas emissions with a global economic model addicted to consumption and powered by fossil fuels? The main question is whether growth is compatible with a world of finite resources. “In the next 20 years, what will remain of this mythical passage, when cargo ships and other container carriers will crisscross it in all directions?”* concludes Ms Quéméré.

* free translation from French

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1 réponse

  1. Ishmael dit :

    Incade beached August 6th in Canada by strong gale force winds. Due to damage to boat Anne had to stop the quest and she was picked up by a group of scientists who happened to come by her location on the shore.

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