Wherever ice disappears, new ways open up for people to move in and through the Arctic. This summer, for instance, both the Northwest Passage and the maritime route north of Russia are ice-free. As the scientists are aware, this is a situation that raises interest: Now there are totally new opportunities for making commercial use of the Arctic, says Gerdes. He sees potential for changes in particular in maritime shipping, the tourism sector, fishery and in the exploitation of resources. Of course, the decline in ice also enables access to resources that were previous inaccessible not only on the seafloor, but also on shore since shipping routes are now available for transporting resources away, explains the sea ice expert.
Gerdes and his colleagues already note a certain optimistic mood in the economy. Gerdes: Our work is very much in demand and its noticeable that interest in sea ice forecasts is now also emerging in sectors with which we dont associate this at all. Economists or fishery biologists suddenly want to know from us how sea ice will change.
The climate researchers are therefore joining forces with 26 partners from nine European countries in the new project ACCESS: Arctic Climate Change, Economy and Society. Divided into five working groups, the researchers want to find answers to the following three key questions: What will transportation, tourism, fishery and resource exploitation in the Arctic be like in the future? What risks do these developments hold for nature and humanity and by means of which regulations can these risks be minimised?