On Thursday, leaders from seven nations will convene in Greenland to discuss the opportunities and challenges presented by the receding ice and snow in the Arctic region.
The council includes the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark, as well as representatives of the indigenous peoples of the Arctic.
“There are very core interests that are at stake in the Arctic, but it is an opportunity to find new patterns of cooperation,” said James Steinberg, the U.S. Secretary Deputy of State, citing the race for oil, minerals, fishing, and shipping opportunities being explored in the Arctic.
There has been evidence for climate change in the Arctic, as temperatures are at the highest in the previous 2,000 years and are increasing faster than anywhere else in the world.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic may hold around 25 percent of the world’s untapped oil and natural gas reserves, catching the attention of major companies like Exxon, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and others.
Global shipping is also adapting to the changing Arctic, as ships can now navigate shorter, faster and more cost efficient routes through the melted ice.
Environmental activists are pushing for more aggressive action on international standards for oil and gas development as well as fishing quotas in the Arctic.
“There’s a short window of opportunity to get out in front of it and protect important and vulnerable ecosystems before industries get entrenched,” said Lisa Speer, director of the international ocean’s program of the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council).
Photo Credit: blogs.state.gov/images/Dipnote/behind_the_scenes/2011_0317_arctic_ice_m.jpg