By Margaret Kriz Hobson, E&E reporter
Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
The importance of the Arctic to world economic, political and military policy is increasing and irreversible, according to a recent analysis by Chatham House, a British think tank.
The report argues that climate change, which is opening Arctic waters for longer periods each summer, is attracting widespread scientific and business interest among non-Arctic countries and forced the Arctic Council this spring to expand its membership (ClimateWire, May 16).
In Greenland, the growth of Arctic oil and mineral development could provide the economic stability needed to declare full independence from Denmark, noted Charles Emmerson, senior research fellow at Chatham House.
"The Arctic's ongoing commercial and geographic globalization ... is not a process that can be easily reversed, except perhaps by a public outcry over the environmental dangers to which development gives rise," the analysissays.
The report notes that the oil and gas industry is looking for opportunities to tap Arctic energy reserves. In the United States, the industry's development has been slowed by environmental opposition.
But Russia is "prioritizing the development of Arctic resources as a means of maintaining oil and gas production and therefore ensuring the continued solvency of the Russian state and assisting in the geo-strategic ambitions of its leaders," Emmerson said.
One of the biggest changes is likely to come in the shipping industry. As sea ice retreats in the Arctic Ocean, critical new shipping lanes are opening up along the coasts of Russia and Canada...