With Arctic sea ice melting at an alarming rate, commercial shipping interests seek to capitalize on the Arctic Ocean’s vulnerability by turning this last and most pristine of the Earth’s oceans into a major shipping highway. There is no greater threat to the survival of humanity than the loss of the polar ice caps and the destabilization of the Arctic Ocean. But instead of taking action to protect the Arctic Ocean, the Canadian government has introduced legislation that anticipates increased shipping traffic, and consequently hastens the demise of life-giving Arctic sea ice.
The ‘Arctic Shipping Safety and Pollution Prevention Regulations’ incorporate the International Maritime Organization (IMO’s) Polar Code into Canada’s domestic laws, resulting in a legislative framework that encourages increased commercial shipping traffic in Canada’s Arctic waters. Transport Canada’s new regulations are merely an attempt to control pollution from increased shipping operations in the Arctic region, however do not consider the farther-reaching and much more devastating impacts of an ice-free Arctic Ocean to humanity as a whole.
For thousands of years, the Arctic ice cap has reflected the sun’s rays, protecting humanity from an overheated earth. Dwindling Arctic sea ice is already causing serious problems worldwide, including extreme global weather events such as floods and droughts, intense storms, heat waves and wildfires. The Polar Code sets out the rules for ships to follow when traversing icy Arctic waters, and emphasizes protecting human lives on board. But thin sea ice in the process of reforming will be easily broken up by the permitted Category A, B and C ships, leaving the polar ice cap little chance to recover and keep our global climate stable.
Commercial vessels pose serious environmental risks which are reason enough to keep this activity out of the Arctic Ocean. The IMO estimates that in 2012, CO2 emissions from shipping were equal to 2.2 percent of the global human-made emissions and expects them to increase by 50 percent to 250 percent in the period to 2050 depending on “future economic growth and energy developments”. The Polar Code merely “encourages” ships not to use or carry heavy fuel oil, one of the dirtiest and most polluting fuels containing particulate matter that darkens and melts ice.
There is no appropriate scenario for commercial vessels in the Arctic Ocean in keeping with restoring Arctic sea ice to necessary, robust levels. The only reasonable course of action is to recognize the Arctic Ocean’s special role as planetary life support system and global temperature regulator, and to protect it from commercial traffic and pollution so sea ice can regenerate. This will be accomplished through the international declaration of the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary.
“The most immediate and direct method of cooling our overheated earth is to protect its own cooling system – the Arctic ice cap,” says Vandana Erin Ryder, General Counsel for Parvati.org. “To ensure Arctic sea ice has a chance to recover, Parvati.org has created the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary Treaty as an addendum to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The MAPS Treaty declares the Arctic Ocean off limits to commercialization, industrialization and militarization, including all commercial shipping activities. We have translated it into the six official UN languages, provided it to all 193 UN member states, and shared it at COP21, 22, 23 and UNGA 72. With signatures from 99 world leaders, the MAPS Treaty takes effect, protecting the Arctic Ocean and all life on Earth, now and for generations to come.”
Citizens of all nations are urged to sign and share the MAPS petition at Parvati.org, and to call on their world leaders to sign the MAPS Treaty immediately.
Parvati.org is a not-for-profit dedicated to a healthy world. Its first order
of business is the realization of MAPS: the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary,
an effective step to cool our planet and keep our oceans alive.