Let’s face it: oil companies welcome climate change and are not about to do anything to slow it down. Warmer temperatures in the Arctic mean less ice and therefore easier oil exploration and extraction. As the Arctic melts, countries with growing energy demands are looking north to the Arctic Circle in order to meet their thirst for oil and to find faster shipping routes. For some, climate change is something to be exploited as well as feared.

According to the US Geological Survey, 30% of the Earth’s untapped gas reserves and 13% of its undiscovered oil are located in the Arctic region.

From Reuters:

By mid-century, the quickest way to get goods from Asia to the U.S. East Coast might well be right over the North Pole, according to a University of California-Los Angeles study.

Arctic Sea Ice Hits Smallest Extent In Satellite Era, pic: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

Icelandic president Olafur Ragnar Grimsson thinks emerging Asian economies, particularly those with an interest in Arctic oil and new shipping lanes, should play a larger role in the region’s policy because, “There is no country that will escape the consequences, either through rising sea levels or extreme weather patterns.”

From the Guardian:

Grimsson told an audience at the National Press Club that in every meeting with Asian leaders this year, from China, South Korea, Singapore and India, his counterparts had sought observer status on the Arctic Council.

Maybe Grimsson is being more politically pragmatic than idealistic. Climate change is happening and we are not doing enough to even slow it down.

China and Iceland have recently negotiated a free trade agreement. Iceland will sell more fish to China. China’s motivation is obviously resource exploitation and future shipping routes. All thanks to global warming.

Arctic ice. Pic: Pink floyd88 a (Wikimedia Commons)

Climate change is also opening up more Arctic waters to fishing, areas that have never been regulated because they have been impossible to fish in. Fish have always lived there, but under cover of ice. Until now. Though regulation is necessary from a conservation standpoint, any new agreement will principally be a way to carve up fish stocks (and limit catch) between those countries with political and economic clout to fish in Arctic waters.

From the New York Times:

Talks are scheduled for later this month among diplomats and fisheries officials from Norway, Denmark, Canada, the United States and Russia. Most concern is focused on newly ice-free waters above the Bering Strait, above the exclusive economic zones of Russia and the United States, and now accessible to trawler fleets from hungry Pacific Ocean nations like China and Japan.

Dwindling resources, growing population, climate change, global industrialization… Not sure I see much of a bright spot in any of these developments. The silver lining of less emissions due to shorter shipping routes is probably grasping at straws, right?