A Warmer Arctic Makes for Hotter Geopolitics

Sep 5, 2019 | 09:15 GMT

A nuclear-powered submarine crew trains in the Murmansk region of Russia.

Thawing ice due to climate change could gradually make the frozen Arctic easier to transit.

(LEV FEDOSEYEV/TASS via Getty Images)


  • Technological advancements and the warming temperatures have the potential to open up new transit routes in the Arctic and make the region’s oil and mineral resources more accessible.
  • This is driving more far-flung countries like China to stake their claim in the new economic and strategic opportunities that melting ice is gradually uncovering.
  • As a result, the Arctic's governance is beginning to diversify beyond the European and North American powers that have long dominated the region’s political order.

For decades, the far North has been seen as an area of distant frontiers -- a place of adventure, untapped resources and mythical trade routes. In this, the region is reminiscent of the frontiers pursued in the early eras of exploration. But unlike the fertile Great Plains of North America or the tropical forests of South America, the Arctic's ice-covered, frigid land has minimal agricultural capacity and little to offer in the way of transport links for the small, distant populations around its periphery (and even then, only seasonally). However, the warming climate and technological advancements are quickly changing what's feasible in the region. And this, combined with expanding economic and strategic interests, is bringing heightened attention back to the North Pole among both Arctic and non-Arctic stakeholders alike. ...

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