The future of the Arctic?

By Richard Gravelle

The future of the Arctic in a warming climate is a hotly debated subject.  Retreating sea ice limits and melting ice masses have the potential to change the face of the region as we know it.  Unfortunately however, we may be heading towards a time when the future of the Arctic region is decided in the boardroom, and not by the Earth’s climate.

The commercial consequences of changes to the Arctic were brought to the forefront this week as an international meeting in Moscow sought to deal with the Arctic’s mineral wealth.

It is believed that one quarter of the worlds oil and gas are located beneath the Arctic Ocean, and this has led several countries to lay claim to territory in the area.  A well known example of this took place in 2007 when a Russian submarine planted a flag on the sea floor as a symbolic gesture of Moscow’s intentions.  Since then Norway, Canada, Denmark and the United States have laid claim to the region.  Russia, for example has promised the equivalent of £40 million in pursuing its claim.

The meeting will aim to end territorial disputes and promote cooperation between countries working in the Arctic.  However, with several of the interested countries having submitted, or intending to submit claims to the United Nations, the dispute does not look likely to end soon.

Arctic summit in Moscow hears rival claims – BBC News, 22nd September 2010

Russia plants flag under North Pole – BBC News, 2nd August 2007

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