The Ice Is Melting: Who Owns What’s Beneath?

I recently went to a talk by a career diplomat. He told us about his 5 years in Oman, his first tour in Baghdad, his latest work in Paris. Cool stuff. But one of my biggest take-aways was that I need to start reading the Journal of Foreign Affairs. I have been trying this week, and look what I found:

When I saw these paragraphs:

The Arctic is the fastest-warming region on earth and continues to melt at a breathtaking rate. Last summer, for the first time in history, the polar icecap retreated far enough to open sea routes north of Eurasia as well as North America, and it is expected to be completely ice-free during the summer months in 2013. Boreal forests are appearing where there was once just frozen tundra, and last summer, the first wild fire was recorded north of Alaska’s Brooks range, in a region where the local Inuit dialects lack a word for forest fire.


The polar icecap in the central Arctic Ocean thinned by half between 2001 and 2007. Other signs — such as warmer deep-water ocean currents, greater albedo feedback loops, and massive ice shelves breaking free — point to further melting. Scientists are increasingly concerned that the thawing permafrost will disgorge millions of tons of methane, unleashing what some refer to as a “climate bomb,” a runaway warming cycle that could dramatically raise the planet’s temperature.

I immediately thought–oh no, another puff-piece from the global warming movement. But I kept reading, and found the focus on the article is not polar bears and melting tundra, but ownership of resources. It ends:

Leaders in Moscow, Ottawa, Oslo, and Copenhagen are certainly aware of the sea change on their northern borders. Responsible statecraft requires those in Washington to take notice of the fast-changing politics on America’s fifth coast as well.

That sums up the tone of the article: the cold-war tensions run high throughout. The issues of contention are: resources (natural gas, oil, fresh water), national security (for Russia, against Russia, global), and shipping rights (German, American, Russian).

I think I will continue to read this resource–it’s pretty cool!

Inspirational Quote:

An astronomer, a physicist and a mathematician (it is said) were holidaying in Scotland. Glancing from a train window, they observed a black sheep in the middle of a field.

“How interesting,” observed the astronomer, “All Scottish sheep are black!”

To which the physicist responded, “No, no! Some Scottish sheep are black!”

The mathematician gazed heavenward in supplication, and then intoned, “In Scotland there exists at least one field, containing at least one sheep, at least one side of which is black.” —Jester 4.0

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