Scientists have repeatedly sounded the alarm on global warming’s role in elevating sea levels, but in a speech Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed to what he felt was a positive: new waterways for trade.
During the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Finland, Pompeo emphasized that the Arctic Ocean “is rapidly taking on new strategic significance.”
“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” he said. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days.”
Pompeo added that Arctic sea lanes could become the “21st century Suez and Panama canals.”
The comments, which were first flagged by Observer, were part of a wide-ranging set of remarks affirming U.S. commitments to the Arctic.
Pompeo, who has a history of climate change skepticism, told ABC News on Sunday that he “can’t rank” where the issue falls on the scale of national security threats, even though the Pentagon concluded in January that it is indeed jeopardizing national security.
At his Senate confirmation hearing for his former post as CIA director in 2017, Pompeo evaded questions about his positions on the environment, stating he “would prefer today not to get into the details of the climate debate and science.”
Meanwhile, the facts describe a concerning new reality.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual Arctic Report Card released in December revealed that the oldest ice in the region had seen a 95% reduction in the past 30 years.
“First-year ice now dominates the ice cover,” the study said, explaining that it is thinner, more fragile, more mobile and “more vulnerable to melting out in the summer.”
According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, the melting ice can exacerbate global warming, causing temperatures to rise as oceans heat up, unable to reflect the sun’s rays back into space without the cover of white.