One battle appears to be shaping up as the Arctic warms, reported by Fast Company.
“In this installment of the Butterfly Effect, climate change is creating incredible economic opportunity in the Arctic, leading to saber rattling from Canada and Russia. Whichever region benefits the most will have enormous geopolitical consequences.
“1. The Great Melt.
“In August 2007, a robotic Russian sub planted a titanium flag on the seabed at the North Pole, an act dismissed as a PR stunt by diplomats in Ottawa and Washington until Russian bombers promptly resumed Arctic patrols for the first time since the Cold War. A few weeks later, the U.S. National Ice Center reported that the fabled Northwest Passage was open and ice-free for the first time in history, theoretically shrinking the distance (and costs) between Asia and Europe by as much as 25%, presuming Canada was willing to let ships use it. The prospect of a Northwest Passage open to commercial traffic could cause a massive shift in the world’s trading lanes, drive sovereignty-obsessed nations to militarize the Arctic, and eventually watch in horror as resource-rich Greenland and Quebec raise the cash (and armed forces) to become the North’s breakaway republics.
“The Arctic lost nearly half its icepack in summer 2007, alarming climatologists while causing the North’s governments to salivate. The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources calculates the Arctic might contain twice the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. The contours of the race to “carve up” the Arctic were revealed in the latest batch of leaked WikiLeaks cables released last month. “The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources, and Russia should not be defeated in this fight,” Russian Ambassador to NATO Dimitry Rogozin was quoted as saying in a 2010 cable. “NATO has sensed where the wind comes from. It comes from the North.”
“2. Navigating the Northwest Passage
“The dream of a Northwest Passage up Baffin Bay, through the Arctic Archipelago and into the Beaufort and then Bering Seas is as old as Captain Cook or Henry Hudson. But many ships and many more men have been lost trying to navigate the route. Climate change has done the work that explorers could not. It is may be a matter of time before the Arctic Ocean is completely ice-free in the summer, whether it’s 2100 or 2030 (depending on which model you believe).
“A shorter route between Europe and Asia minus the geopolitical headaches makes as much sense as ever. A container ship leaving Yokohama bound for Rotterdam takes currently takes 29 days to round the Cape of Good Hope, or 22 days via Singapore, the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal. An Arctic route could cut that to 15 days, bypassing a saber-rattling Chinese navy, Malay and Somali pirates, and the burden of paying canal fees.
“The Northwest Passage could save a ship as much as $3.5 million per trip, according to Scott G. Borgerson, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The passage would accelerate the movement toward “Post Panamax” ships like the Emma Maersk, which can carry 15,000 shipping containers–three times the size of what can now squeeze through the Panama Canal. “In an age of just-in-time delivery, and with increasing fuel costs eating into the profits of shipping companies, reducing long-haul sailing distances by as much as 40 percent could usher in a new phase of globalization,” Borgerson wrote in an article for Foreign Affairs. World-spanning supply chains would preserve their fossil-fuel-dependent cost advantage a little while longer, thanks in no small part to the oil being pumped out of the Arctic.”