However, in the Arctic there are numerous deposits of natural resources that are becoming more accessible every year as a result of climate change. These rich deposits include an estimated 25-30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15-20% of the world’s undiscovered crude oil reserves. Large deposits of diamonds, rare earths, and other minerals such as palladium, platinum, and zinc are believed to be in the Arctic as well. All eight of the permanent members of the Arctic Council, including the United States, Canada, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries have shown considerable interest in these untapped resources. It is possible that the race to this wealth of natural resources in the Arctic could lead to tension and strained relations in the region.
We have seen this already. In 2007, the Russians planted their flag on the sea floor at the North Pole. Within months, other countries in the region responded by increasing naval patrols in the Arctic and staking out sovereignty claims. It appeared that tensions were really heating up in the region. Since then though, Arctic countries have settled long-standing territorial disputes and other disagreements in a peaceful and orderly manner. So, for now anyway, it looks as if tensions between the nations in the Arctic have calmed down significantly.
Another possible point of contention that may prove to be of consequence in the Arctic is that of the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route. With the ice cap in the arctic shrinking, it is soon going to be possible to sail ships through the Northwest Passage, which winds through the Canadian Islands in the Arctic Ocean. As a result of this, will the Canadian government be able to impose their laws on ships sailing through the Northwest Passage? Also, the Northern Sea Route, which hugs the Russian coastline in the Arctic, saw four commercial ships sail through its waters for the first time in 2010. The Russian government has even set up an office in Moscow thats job is to monitor marine weather and issue shipping permits for the Northern Sea Route.
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Photo used under Creative Commons from Noel Feans