Warmer temperatures open up the northern shipping routes

A.M. Costa Rica file graphic Dark line traces the navagational options over the top of the North American continent.

The predictions of doom that surround the slight temperature change being experienced by the earth nearly always overlooks the benefits of a warmer planet.

Vast stretches of the northern hemisphere have a summer too short for most food production. Russians probably would prefer pineapples than the cabbage that is grown in many parts of that country. Nikita Krushchev, the former Soviet premier, had a long-term and ultimately unsuccessful program to develop a strain of wheat that would survive the harsh Russian winters.

Farmers in Alaska and in Canada are well acquainted with early frosts and short growing seasons. A warmer planet is likely to bring some benefits to these areas.

However, such topics probably will not be emphasized later this month when the United Nations holds its Conference on Sustainable Development.

But there may be some surprises in the future.

Panamá is building a $5 billion third lane for the canal there. In Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega is promoting a canal from the Caribbean to the Pacific that may cost up to $30 billion.

But up north, the ice is receding in both the Northwest and the Northeast passages.

The Northeast Passage is the route over the top of Russia. The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research reported this week that this area is expected to be free from ice again in this northern summer. The route from Europe to Asia is shorter than the traditional route through the Suez Canal.

The Northwest Passage is over the top of Canada and Alaska. That, too, is becoming ice free for several months of the year. This passage has been the holy grail of explorers since Europeans started probing the North American continent. The ice here also is being reduced, and some navigation is possible.

More than 100 heads of state and government, along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, U.N. officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders are expected to attend U.N. conference in Rio de Janeiro, from June 20 to 22. Among them will be Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla. The U.N. says the purpose is to shape new policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.

Representatives from various countries have been working on draft documents for the session, said the U.N.

“These last three days are going to be absolutely crucial for diplomats,” said Brice Lalonde, the executive coordinator of the conference. “Delegations are going to be working day and night, dividing themselves into splintered groups to work more thoroughly on each issue, which is something that they have accepted to do only for the last few days.” He was quoted in a U.N. news release Wednesday.

The talks are the third and final session of the conference’s preparatory committee, which will continue deliberations until Friday. The committee’s various groups will discuss issues such as the management of water, education, health, sustainable transport, desertification and climate change, among others, said the U.N.

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