The temperature is rising in the Arctic. As global warming causes the ice-caps to melt, natural resources and lucrative shipping routes are becoming more accessible. Russia’s jaunty placing of a flag on the seabed near the North Pole was only one of several exploratory expeditions this summer. Norway, Denmark (through its sovereignty over Greenland), Russia, Canada and America could all claim a slice of the region.
According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, each country is entitled to a 200 nautical mile (370 km) economic zone from its coast, plus any area which it can prove is connected to its own continental shelf.
The race for a slice of the Arctic’s riches is obvious, but why is it happening now? Clearly, the boom in energy and commodity prices is changing the economics of difficult searches for oil, gas, and minerals. The steady melting of polar ice-caps, as a result of global warming, is making previously inaccessible deposits much easier to get at. It is also helping to open some formerly icebound shipping lanes. People who love the Arctic for its beauty, not its riches, are worried about its fate. The Arctic is believed to contain 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, but those deposits are still very difficult to reach. The fact that no nation can conquer the Arctic alone is probably a source of relief.