Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Norway sees a silver lining to climate change

A recent PlanetArk article highlights the fact that not everyone loses from climate change. Norway is looking at the opportunities that it might throw up.

I suspect the thawing in the ice will lead to a freezing in relations between the large number of countries who have claims to the land and resources currently under the ice.

A military build up is inevitable and Norway may be uncomfortable being stuck between the Russians and Americans.

"Plenty Of Opportunities" From Arctic Thaw - Norway" [PlanetArk]

OSLO - A thaw of Arctic ice will open "plenty of opportunities" in oil and gas exploration and shipping even though the overall impact of global warming will be damaging for the region, Norway's Foreign Minister said.

Jonas Gahr Stoere, who will host a meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council in the Norwegian city of Tromsoe on Wednesday, said now was the time to work out rules to head off potential disputes over resources in the polar region.

"I think there are plenty of opportunities," Stoere said of businesses looking to the Arctic. Arctic summer sea ice shrank in 2007 to its smallest since satellite records began.

"The resources, the new sailing lanes, these are all opportunities," he said in an interview with Reuters. The Arctic Council talks will be preceded on Tuesday by a meeting about melting ice, including a speech by former US Vice President Al Gore.

But Stoere said the Arctic thaw was damaging overall and would harm the hunting cultures of indigenous peoples. "They experience profound changes in the foundations of their livelihoods," he said.

Among new opportunities, an official US study last year estimated the Arctic had 90 billion barrels of untapped oil, enough to meet current world demand for three years.

And in 2007, the Northwest Passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans opened for a first time in memory. Mining firms could also find new deposits.

The Arctic is warming far faster than the global average, according to the UN Climate Panel. Darker ocean or ground, once exposed, soaks up far more heat than reflective ice.

An ice-free Arctic Ocean could in turn accelerate climate change from Africa to Asia, Stoere said. Among those attending the meeting in Tromsoe will be Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg.

Stoere said he hoped that worries about the melt of the Arctic would help spur governments to work out a strong UN accord to fight climate change at a meeting in Copenhagen in December.


Among emerging disputes, both Russia and Denmark say the North Pole is part of their territory -- Moscow even planted a flag beneath the pole in 2007. Norway agreed northern limits to its territorial waters with a UN commission this month.

"Everybody can make easy predictions that when there are resources and there is a need for resources there will be conflict and scramble," Stoere said. "It need not be that way."

"All Arctic coastal states share an interest in stability," he said. The Arctic Council states are the United States, Russia, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

Stoere also said Arctic states might need more of a military presence. "The more activity there is, the more responsibility of the coastal states to ensure there is order," he said.

"Yes, we may need coastguard, we may need presence of military, naval forces...not as a threat (but) as a tool to settle disputes and to maintain order."

An oil spill, more tourism or industrial activity, for instance, demanded search and rescue ability and surveillance.



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