OVER THE TOP: ARCTIC SHIPPING LANES

From a political and economic standpoint, climate change and the rising temperatures it generates will create both winners and losers. For more on this, we turn to Signal’s Arctic Bureau Chief, Alexander Kliment.


Last month, the Venta Maersk (pictured above) became the first international container ship to complete the journey from Asia to Europe through the Arctic Circle. Until now, this journey could only be made via the Indian Ocean and passage through the Suez Canal or around the Cape of Good Hope and up Africa’s west coast.

But an accelerated melting of the polar ice cap means that a stretch of Arctic waters known as the Northern Sea Route (NSR) has now become navigable for several months a year. The NSR has a lot going for it: the trip is 30-50 percent shorter than the traditional routes between Asia and Europe, and it has 100 percent fewer pirates.

The Venta, loaded with electronics and frozen food, left South Korea in August, made a stop in Vladivostok, sailed through the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia, moved along Russia’s north coast, and with the help of a nuclear icebreaker, passed into the Norwegian Sea. It docked in St. Petersburg last Friday.

For now, the need for accompanying icebreakers means costs are high, and the journey remains unpredictable and dangerous. One authoritative study says the route won’t be economically viable for significant ship traffic until 2035. (Particularly in the world of long-term investment in transport, that’s not as far off as it sounds. We’re now closer to 2035 than to 2001.)

As the ice melts further and the journey becomes more common, the balance of power in global trade could shift substantially. The biggest winner might well be the Kremlin. A sizable portion of the Northern Sea Route runs through Russia’s territorial waters, allowing Moscow to set conditions for passage, grant and deny access, and impose duties along the route. The strategic and economic benefits are obvious.

More broadly, the melting ice cap will make it possible to extract vast quantities of the oil, gas, and minerals thought to lie beneath the Arctic seabed. That will only intensify the competition for territorial claims among Arctic powers—the United States, Russia, Canada, and the Scandinavians. Thus far, Russia has made the biggest claim by arguing that its continental shelf extends deep into the Arctic Circle. And making geopolitical matters more interesting, as Willis wrote back in April, China will want a piece of the action.


How will our cities and lives change in the future? What about a structure with a roller skating rink above a swimming pool, made out of transparent solar panels that power the entire park? This was the innovation invented by Eni's young researchers based on Luminescent Solar Concentrators, developed through Eni's research.

Watch the latest episode of Funny Applications, Eni's video series that imagines new uses for technology.

For 30 years, citizens of Hong Kong have gathered in Victoria Park on the evening of June 4 to honor the peaceful protesters massacred in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on that date in 1989. It has been the only public Tiananmen commemoration permitted on Chinese soil.

This year, the park was surrounded by barricades to keep people out. The officially stated reason for the shut-down? Crowds spread coronavirus. (In this city of more than 7 million, COVID has so far killed four people.)

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In an interview with GZERO World host Ian Bremmer, Hong Kong lawmaker Dennis Kwok, an outspoken pro-democracy advocate, expresses his concerns that the current "draconian" laws China's leadership is forcing upon his city has expedited the end of the "one country, two systems" policy established in 1997.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Big news, of course, that former Secretary of Defense Mattis comes out with a public statement basically calling Trump's rule, his actions, unconstitutional and unfit for office, more divisive than any president he's ever seen.

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French protests over racial injustice: The George Floyd protests in the United States have sparked solidarity demonstrations around the world, with people flocking to US embassies in Berlin, London and elsewhere to express their outrage. But they have also inspired other countries to reexamine racial justice within their own societies. In France, where street demonstrations are practically a national pastime, thousands of people have gathered in support of the family of Adama Traoré, a 24-year old black man who died in police custody back in 2016. At least 20,000 Parisians demonstrated Wednesday, despite coronavirus bans on public gatherings. Protesters adopted similar language to the Floyd protests, demanding accountability for the officers who violently pinned down Traoré during a dispute over an identity check, leading to his death. Renewed focus on this case, which has become a potent symbol of police brutality in France, comes as coronavirus lockdowns have recently stoked tensions between the police and the mostly-minority residents of Paris' banlieues (low-income suburbs).

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