Who doesn’t like warm weather? We vacation to warmer climates, look forward to the arrival of spring, and birds fly south for the winter. But warmer weather resulting from global climate change …
Who doesn’t like warm weather? We vacation to warmer climates, look forward to the arrival of spring, and birds fly south for the winter. But warmer weather resulting from global climate change is not something to relish, as its impact on our world is causing damage that far outweighs any benefits. Specifically, regarding Global Supply Chains, the use of the Arctic Sea Routes should not be considered the silver lining to Global Climate Change.
Why would we, living in RI care about Global Supply Chains? Well, it is the reason big companies are giving for hurting our environment. The possibility of an Arctic Sea Route has people in New England concerned and they have formed an organization called the New England Arctic Network (NEAN) to identify the opportunities, risks, and hazards along the eastern seacoast. Given the many fishing villages in RI both for commercial and recreation, Rhode Islanders’ livelihoods and food source.
There has been a significant decrease in Arctic Sea Ice with ice volume dropping 75% since the 1980s, opening opportunities for new trade routes. Russia is leading the development of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and by 2035 plans to address problems such as port infrastructure and communications for safe navigation. If the ice continues to melt at this rate, Russia will have no problem accomplishing this mission. Utilizing ice breakers and increasing transit does not give the ice a chance to reform, thus making it easier each year to break through it.
Canada on the other hand is trying to protect the Northwest Passage (NWP) environment and the people and animals that live there. The sea ice is much thicker in the NWP than in the NSR, making it difficult to use the passage for more than a few months out of a year. Canada keeps the use to a minimum and does not advertise to shipping companies. With these two different approaches, it is easy to see that the future will bring conflict in the region over environmental issues and allow Russia greater economic control as they capitalize on climate change rather than join the international movement to protect the Earth, our home.
Many countries are working hard to reduce greenhouse gases to bring the temperature down to within 1.1C of preindustrial levels. The Paris agreement which aims to keep global warming to no more than 1.5C, and other policies like President Biden’s recent methane emissions reduction action plan, will help ease the reduction in sea ice and even reverse it.
The development of the NSR directly conflicts with the international efforts to combat climate change. Luckily, companies like Nike recognize the need to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Aware that the risks and impact the Arctic Sea Routes pose to our earth far outweigh any benefits to their Global Supply Chain, Nike partnered with Ocean Conservancy to create the Arctic Corporate Shipping Pledge*. So far, several companies, including shipping companies as well, have joined the pledge that not only includes the promise to not utilize the Arctic Shipping Routes, but also involves the pledge to support missions that help to protect the Arctic by enforcing regulations to protect the environment while it is being used for transport by other companies.
Companies that utilize the Arctic Sea Routes do it to reduce transport time and in turn positively impact their Global Supply Chain. Other factors that must be considered, however, do not make it such a straightforward option. Specifically, excess costs such as ice breakers, increased insurance for the treacherous path across the ice, specialized ships that can withstand ice, as well as limited use to only a few months out of the year may not necessarily be beneficial to the bottom line. Additionally, environmental impacts such as Arctic pollution, ice breakage, and natural habitat disruption, are typically not given a monetary value that should and must be considered as well.
Protecting the environment and our world is not a business…it is a necessity. Industrialism and capitalism have led to where we are today, and many businesses are ignoring the destruction to help their bottom line. But this is our home, and our only home, which is why we need to protect it from future damage. Becoming more informed and more environmentally conscious is easier now with new foundations such as Only Home**. Many may think that they can’t impact the Arctic Routes or that it has nothing to do with their lives, but it does, and they can. In fact, by reading this and becoming more informed on the situation, you have already done something and taken the first step. Why not keep it going?
*View the pledge at Ocean Climate: Arctic Corporate Shipping Pledge - Ocean Conservancy and Take Action where you can **Follow Only Home Foundation on Instagram @onlyhomefoundation
Tammy Napolitano and Cherilynn Lombardi are MBA students at the University of Rhode Island. They are passionate about Global Climate Change, and together have over 30 years combined working for a large biopharmaceutical company that takes a clear stand on Environmental Sustainability.
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