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2.2 Environmental impact and risk of raw materials extraction and transportation
Recent observations within the Arctic region show that the surface air temperatures continue to be higher than the 20th century average. The most striking change in the Arctic has been the decline of the summer ice. In 2008 both the Northeast and Northwest Passages had ice free conditions for the first time in the recorded history. Researchers suggest that the Arctic may be sea ice free in September as early as 2030. The melting sea ice leaves the Arctic sea increasingly open for shipping and enables the usage of natural resources such as minerals, oil and gas. The growing activities in the Arctic has potentially dramatic increases in the man‐made emissions and hence impacts on the vulnerable, distant environments.
These activities face problems and will need knowledge in understanding weather phenomena, ice behaviour and ship navigation in ice conditions as well as how the climate change will proceed and the environment is impacted by the increased activity in the Arctic and subarctic area. Melting of permafrost will pose challenges in transport, as well as for gas and oil pipelines. Leaks in gas and oil pipelines and emissions from shipping may cause substantial local and regional pollution.
Therefore, research has to be performed and new, environmentally friendly technologies need to be developed such as closed system mining processes, oil drilling, energy transport (gas and oil pipelines), sustainable energy and waste management, communication and transportation. Vessel operators can benefit from timely delivery of environmental information, like satellite observations of sea ice cover and ice maps but will also require a degree of coordination with icebreaker services and vessel monitoring to ensure safe passage.