Monday, September 09, 2013

Can we Build the Bloody Icebreakers Now, Please?

We had a little fun a few years back with the Navy's oceanographer when we seemed to be joining whole-hog with global warming cargo cult. Good times, good times.

It wasn't so much the group-think that bothered me, but the ahistorical and anti-intellectualism of it all. Well, that and the subtle whiff of politics that comes with it. As a gumbo, its taste was a bit off.

In that light - I have enjoyed this little bit that came in over the weekend.
There has been a 60 per cent increase in the amount of ocean covered with ice compared to this time last year, they equivalent of almost a million square miles.

In a rebound from 2012's record low an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia's northern shores, days before the annual re-freeze is even set to begin.

The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year, forcing some ships to change their routes.

A leaked report to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seen by the Mail on Sunday, has led some scientists to claim that the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century.
Long-term cycles in ocean temperature, she said, suggest the world may be approaching a period similar to that from 1965 to 1975, when there was a clear cooling trend.

At the time some scientists forecast an imminent ice age.
"Settled Science," indeed.

This is all silly, in a maddening way. The Earth has always either warmed or cooled. Oceans have always risen and fallen; that is why central Georgia used to be beach-front and a lot of early human settlement is now under a hundred or so feet of water. Anyone who expects the Earth to be static is either delusional or intellectually lazy.

As a result of the Navy and Coast Guard's embrace of this mindlessly political movement, we have found yet another reason to ignore a "unsexy but important" part of our maritime toolkit.

Here is what I do know:
- We are an arctic nation with a significant part of our energy security reliant on that part of the world.
- We are heavily reliant on energy from Canada, another arctic power.
- One of our closest allies, Denmark, is an arctic power.
- We have significant interests in Antarctica.
- As the premier maritime power, we should be leading, not lagging in ice capable ships.

Where do we stand now

Refurbishing Polar Star remains the Coast Guard’s near-term heavy icebreaker bridging strategy. When refurbished by 2014, Polar Star will be the service’s only operational heavy icebreaker. This important, but venerable platform will serve an additional 7 to 10 years but that is only the beginning of the story. The Coast Guard’s mission requirements, including marine environmental protection, dictate that the service maintain heavy icebreaking capability for the foreseeable future.

In order to fully fund subsequent phases of this project, the Coast Guard believes that a “whole-of-government” approach will be necessary. Obtaining a new, heavy polar icebreaker that meets Coast Guard requirements will depend upon supplementary financing from other agencies whose activities also rely upon the nation possessing a robust, Arctic-capable surface fleet.
Let's put down our Al Gore memorial Great Green Fleet dream-catcher and act like thinking adults about this.

The multiple ice breaking and ice capable requirements are real and significant and our capabilities are almost gone. Even in an era of declining budgets, money can be found.

Would I trade Navy LCS-money for an USCG icebreaker? In a heartbeat. We can even give it a 57mm to make the transformationalists happy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FYI, the POLAR STAR just finished her shakedown cruise and is back in service.