What Will Happen If New Shipping Routes Open Up in the Arctic

Imagine navigating through the once-impenetrable icy wilderness of the Arctic, now transformed into a bustling maritime highway. As the planet warms, Arctic sea ice is quickly melting, creating shortcuts between continents that were once the stuff of legend. This is not the backdrop of a sci-fi or fantasy plot, but a stark reality unfolding today. 


Current levels of ice melt have already created new shipping lanes and increased access to Arctic ports. As these passages and ports become poised to facilitate large-scale ship traffic — for all kinds of vessels, including cargo, naval, scientific, transport, and cruise ships — the planet will enter a new frontier of crisis.


While the prospect of shorter routes might sound beneficial on the surface, it’s also the sign of a profound environmental shift that’s quickly sinking the planet into deep disaster. Here’s what you need to know about Arctic sea ice melt and what will happen if new Arctic shipping routes become a reality.

How Continued Arctic Sea Ice Melt Could Change Current Shipping Routes

As global temperatures rise, Arctic sea ice is quickly diminishing — so quickly, that the Arctic could have ice-free summers by 2035. If this happens, it will create larger Arctic waterways that allow for shorter maritime shipping routes between oceans and continents, eliminating thousands of miles from trips that would ordinarily pass through the Panama or Suez canals. These waterways include the Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the Northwest Passage (NWP), also referred to as the Arctic Passage, which are likely to become widely used shipping lanes.


This trend may initially appear advantageous for global maritime navigation, as these emerging routes could offer lower transportation costs due to reduced transit times and fuel consumption, assuming that current safety and insurance-related obstacles could be overcome. However, the prospect of large-scale Arctic traffic also has far-reaching consequences likely to spell disaster in multiple already-fragile and volatile arenas, including national security.

Geopolitical Implications

As Arctic sea ice melts and passages become more navigable, two types of international conflicts will emerge. These conflicts are likely to be heightened for two main reasons:



  • Nations that can claim ownership of Arctic waterways will gain major advantages from controlling these passages in terms of matters like security, tourism, and scientific research.

Sources of Conflict

First, Article 234 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that coastal nations bordering the Arctic hold regulatory power over areas that are covered in ice for the majority of the year. The loss of this ice could legally complicate countries’ claims over and rights in parts of the Arctic Ocean, giving rise to territorial disputes and confusion around security protocols. In addition to creating or heightening international tensions, this could make it easier for criminals to use these waterways for illegal fishing or human and drug trafficking. 


Second, the Arctic is increasingly an area of geopolitical competition between the bordering US, China, and Russia, the three most powerful nations in the world. Both China and Russia have serious long-standing (and currently heightening) political disputes with the US. Recently, China and Russia have been cooperating in various regards, a tentative alliance that is causing security concerns for Americans. This may lead to an increased military presence in the Arctic from all three nations, exacerbating pre-existing tensions to the point of armed conflict.

Accelerated Global Warming and Heightened Climate Crisis

Thanks to its historically large quantities of ice, the Arctic region provides a considerable portion of Earth’s overall albedo (ability to reflect sunlight and stabilize temperatures). As the Arctic sea ice cover melts, it uncovers dark, heat-absorbing water, effectively accelerating the current rate of global warming and worsening the effects of the ongoing climate crisis. Increased ship traffic in this region would bring with it greater localized greenhouse gas emissions and black carbon deposition on ice, which would cause Arctic ice to melt even more quickly.

Environmental and Ecological Destruction

The Arctic’s ecosystems face unprecedented disruptions and damage if maritime traffic increases in the following ways:


  • Risk of oil spills. The potential for oil spills from ships transporting fossil fuels from or through the Arctic poses a severe threat to the region’s delicate ecosystems. In such a remote, dangerous, and otherwise logistically challenging environment, addressing oil spills is significantly more difficult than elsewhere, heightening the risk of unmitigated or poorly mitigated long-term environmental damage.


  • Habitat disturbance and noise pollution. The surge in shipping traffic would disrupt marine life, particularly noise-sensitive species like whales. The increased noise interferes with their communication, navigation, and feeding behaviors, leading to broader ecological imbalances.
  • Loss of ice necessary for species survival. The continued loss of sea ice, which is already occurring at an alarming rate and would be further hastened by localized carbon emissions from ships, would endanger not only global temperatures, but the region’s wildlife and ecosystems. Many species rely on the ice as a habitat and breeding grounds as well as for hunting. Whales, polar bears, seals, walruses, and many other species may become extinct or at risk of extinction.


  • Introduction of invasive species. Increased shipping traffic raises the likelihood of invasive species being transported into the Arctic waters, potentially disrupting local marine ecosystems and threatening native species’ survival.

Social and Cultural Impact

The transformation of the Arctic as it would stem from new shipping routes has profound and harmful implications for indigenous and other local communities:


  • Economic opportunities and challenges. While new shipping lanes may bring some economic opportunities to Arctic communities, they would also present challenges. This is likely to be the case if indigenous people and other locals aren’t treated respectfully or compensated fairly.  


  • Access to resources and services. Improved shipping routes could enhance access to resources and services for remote Arctic communities, potentially improving living standards. However, this increased accessibility may also lead to over-exploitation of natural resources and increased foreign influence in the region.


  • Cultural heritage and preservation. The influx of global shipping activities and the resultant environmental changes could threaten the cultural heritage of indigenous people, disrupting traditional practices like fishing, hunting, and herding. The arrival and presence of non-natives could also result in the marginalization and loss of native languages.


  • Infrastructure and investment. The need for improved infrastructure to support increased shipping activity could drive investment in remote regions, but it also raises concerns about sustainable development and the environmental impact of construction in these fragile ecosystems. This is important because Arctic residents, too, depend on and are part of these ecosystems.

What You Can Do

You can help protect critical Arctic sea ice, the health of our climate, and Arctic wildlife from the hazards of increased shipping and other maritime traffic by doing the following:


  • Educating yourself and others about the realities of the current climate crisis and viable climate intervention strategies


  • Reducing your own use of fossil fuels, which are the biggest drivers of the climate crisis


  • Voting for legislation, leaders, and politicians committed to protecting the Arctic from exploitation and addressing the climate crisis


  • Supporting nonprofit organizations that work directly in the climate intervention sector

Protect Arctic Sea Ice With Arctic Ice Project

Arctic Ice Project’s efforts are crucial to the protection of Arctic sea ice. Our team is developing reflective materials and strategies to increase the albedo of this precious ice, mimicking natural processes to reflect solar energy out of our atmosphere and restore the Arctic.


You can do your part in this critical fight by donating to AIP. With your donation of cash, stocks, bonds, or your opening of a DAF, you can help ensure that Arctic sea life and humanity on our planet not only see a tomorrow, but see a brighter one. No donation is too small! 


If you are not able to make a financial contribution, you can still share the message and inspire others to act through social media and by staying informed on climate projects. Contact us today for other ways to help!

Make an Impactful Move This Earth Day: Champion the Climate Crisis Fight

As we approach another Earth Day, a day of reflection and action for our planet’s health, the urgency to address the climate crisis has never been more critical. Earth Day, observed annually on April 22, serves as a global call to action, encouraging individuals, communities, businesses, and governments to commit to environmental sustainability and protection. 


If you’ve ever wanted to save the world, as a child or as an adult, it’s your time to shine. Our planet faces unprecedented challenges due to global warming. This includes not just hotter summers and related health concerns, but species extinction, sea level rise, coastal flooding, weakened ocean currents, and permanent adverse changes to our weather patterns, to name a few.


Consequently, Earth Day’s mission has evolved from raising awareness to taking urgent action. In this pivotal moment, you can make a real difference by engaging in high-impact Earth Day activities — not only in the form of events and lifestyle changes, but direct support for nonprofits focused on mitigating the climate crisis.


Here’s what you should know about this all-important time of year, as well as some of the most effective ways to celebrate Earth Day and protect our planet from the ravages of climate change.

A Brief History of Earth Day: Then and Now

The Origins

The first Earth Day, held in 1970, marked a seminal moment in environmental activism. It was a day born out of a burgeoning recognition of our planet’s fragility and the need to change widespread environmental ignorance. Activists were particularly concerned about the effects of irresponsible industrial development over the past 150 years, including pollution in the air, water, and soil.


This initial movement laid the groundwork for major necessary legislative actions, including the establishment of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts, among others. Over time, Earth Day became an international phenomenon that helped people to understand the dangers of environmental destruction and encouraged them to engage in recycling, cleanups, and other eco-friendly practices.

The Evolution

Although much has been accomplished since the first Earth Day over half a century ago, the narrative and urgency around it have dramatically shifted in the present day. No longer just a day of awareness in which people plant trees or reduce litter, this observance marks the dire need to combat the existential threat of global warming and the current climate crisis. 


Saving the planet now requires immediate support for comprehensive strategies against climate change, including advocating for renewable energy and conservation, but also direct interventions to cope with a rapidly heating planet. Today, climate change isn’t a future possibility, but an ongoing crisis. Mitigating it is not merely a good idea, but a stark necessity for our survival.

How to Fight Climate Change

Here’s how you can make a real difference in the fight against the climate crisis this Earth Day and every day.

Take High-Impact Actions

Volunteering, advocating for policy changes, and adopting sustainable practices personally and professionally are all ways individuals and corporations can make a difference. Some of the most effective steps you can take include:


  • Advocating for better environmental education in schools, businesses, and communities


  • Facilitating the use of renewable energy sources at home and everywhere else



  • Supporting leaders and legislation that work toward improved climate resilience and reduced global warming

Galvanize Corporate Support

Corporate support for climate-focused nonprofits represents another significant lever for change. Businesses, leveraging their resources and influence, can catalyze broader societal shifts toward sustainability. By partnering with, funding, and implementing environmentally friendly practices encouraged by these nonprofits, companies not only enhance their sustainability credentials, but also contribute to a larger ripple effect, inspiring others to follow suit.


Whether you’re a C-suite executive, an entry-level employee, or someone in between at a business or corporation, you have the power to ask your company to lend its clout to a nonprofit working to mitigate the climate crisis. 

Harness the Power of Donations

Nonprofits dedicated to fighting the climate crisis conduct research, advocate for policy changes, and implement key on-the-ground projects that aim to protect the planet from the immediate effects of global warming, such as albedo modification. But they need funding in order to do any of the things needed for effective climate intervention.


Giving to these organizations amplifies their capabilities, enabling them to scale up their efforts, innovate in their approaches, and push for transformative changes at both local and global levels. Financial contributions, whether big or small, fuel these critical initiatives, making each donation an impactful step toward combating global warming.


This Earth Day, let’s embrace the urgent call to action against global warming by supporting nonprofits dedicated to mitigating the climate crisis. Our collective efforts can drive real progress towards a healthier, more viable future. They also honor Earth Day’s legacy, not just on April 22, but every day. Together, we have the power to make a difference in the fight against the climate crisis, ensuring a thriving Earth for current and future generations.

Join Arctic Ice Project’s “Ice to Not Sea You” Event

Arctic Ice Project’s efforts are crucial to the protection of Arctic sea ice, a key component of climate intervention and resilience. Our team is developing reflective materials and strategies to increase the albedo of this precious ice, mimicking natural processes to reflect solar energy out of our atmosphere and restore the Arctic.


You can do your part in this critical fight by joining us for our virtual “Ice to Not Sea You” fundraising event and purchasing your tickets for a brighter future. With your donation of cash, stocks, bonds, or your opening of a DAF, you can help ensure that Arctic sea life and humanity on our planet not only see a tomorrow, but see a better one. No donation is too small! 


If you are not able to make a financial contribution, you can still share the message and inspire others to act through social media and by staying informed on climate projects. Contact us today for other ways to help!

Arctic Ambassador: Jennifer Krach

Arctic Ambassador: Jennifer Krach

Jennifer Krach has been a vital part of our great strides over the last two years. Her major gifts have provided a firm base of support from which we have grown our team, expertise, outreach, and results, to a vastly accelerated degree. This native Californian loves to surf, hike, and stay active in angel investing and philanthropy! We caught up with Jennifer for a few questions.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?
That I’m an avid fantasy football player! Some friends started a league seven years ago, and I’m not above bragging that I’ve won the trophy 3 out of the 7 years.

What inspired you to get involved with Arctic Ice Project (formerly Ice911 Research)?
My good friend and fantasy football colleague Carol Sontag invited me to an informational talk a couple of years ago, and I was very impressed with Dr. Leslie Field’s commitment and vision. After I met with Dr. Steve Zornetzer I made my initial commitment.

When your friends/family find out that you donate to our nonprofit what do they typically want to know?
People are overwhelmed by the concept of what climate change will do and what we can possibly do to prevent it. A common question is along the lines of, “What can one small organization do to mitigate this looming disaster”?

What is the most compelling aspect of our work?
The science itself, and the proactive research on a way to protect the Arctic ice, which is key to slowing climate change.

Why do you continue to give to the organization?
To continue to fund research into maintaining Arctic ice. Then hopefully onto the next steps of approval and implementation. The time to do this is now! Not in 5, 10 or 20 years.

What would be your advice to others who might consider supporting us?
My opinion is that there is no way humans will flatten, let alone reduce by necessary amounts, our carbon emissions. We need a parallel path to keeping the ice we have as the Arctic ice is the front line in the climate change battle.

Thank you again, Jennifer! Your generosity has been key to our success thus far.

Most recently, Jennifer agreed to participate as the anchor donor in our COVID-19 Arctic Restoration Gift Campaign to maintain momentum in key aspects of our technical work. Jennifer and our team encourage you to join the campaign.

So far we’ve raised over 60% of our $500,000 campaign fundraising goal. Reaching this campaign goal will fund over 30% of our annual budget. High-impact engagement with Arctic Ice Project brings diverse and vital resources to our mission while also meeting your own personal and social objectives.

Your tax-deductible gift allows us to continue our important research. Our team values every donation!