SOURCE: The Independent

DATE: February 14, 2018

SNIP: A ship has made a winter crossing of the Arctic without an icebreaker for the first time as global warming causes the region’s ice sheets to melt.

The tanker, containing liquefied natural gas, is the first commercial vessel to make such a crossing alone during the winter months.

The voyage is a significant moment in the story of climate change in the Arctic and will be seized on by those with concerns about thinning polar ice and its implications for the environment.

As global warming leads to melting Arctic ice, areas of the northern oceans are becoming accessible to vessels for the first time.

Shipping companies have been investing in ships that are able to break through thinning polar ice, as the northern sea route is considerably shorter for many trade links between Europe and Asia.

[E]nvironmentalists have noted the irony in the rapidly warming Arctic seas being used as a highway for fossil fuel transport.

“Inevitably, this has caused massive changes, with most of the Arctic ice having already disappeared. And so now, ironically, we can deliver fossil fuels more quickly. It’s like a heavy smoker using his tracheotomy to smoke two cigarettes at once,” said Sarah North, senior oil strategist for Greenpeace International.