Vast sheets of impenetrable multiyear ice, which can reach up to 80 meters (260 feet) thick, have for centuries blocked the path of ships seeking a quick short cut through the fabled Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They also ruled out the idea of sailing across the top of the world.
But David Barber, Canada's Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, said the ice was melting at an extraordinarily fast rate.
"We are almost out of multiyear sea ice in the northern hemisphere," he said in a presentation in Parliament. The little that remains is jammed up against Canada's Arctic archipelago, far from potential shipping routes.
If you don't understand the implications of an ice-free Arctic, then I have one simple word for you: methane. Read that paper on the dangers of methane and the melting permafrost, and then start apologizing to your children and grandchildren.
I try to remain optimistic when it comes to tackling climate change, just as I am aware the the human primate only takes action at the last possible moment. But that's pretty much where we are right now, and I still don't see anyone in government offering any solutions that call for real sacrifice. Preserving "the American way of life" is sacrosanct, even if that lifestyle - disposable consumerism, reckless greed, endless pollution - is the very cause of our crisis. We can't stop global catastrophe by changing light bulbs and bringing your own bag to the grocery store.
I say give up your cars, and give up your hamburgers. I say we learn to sacrifice for the sake of future generations. Now what are the odds that I could get elected to Congress on that platform?
But, like I've said, I'll try to remain hopeful. But the clock is ticking.