Monday was George W. Bush’s last press conference as president, and the administration seized the day to release new security directives on US interests in the Arctic – where disappearing sea ice has the five bordering countries on edge about who will get their hands on assets set to be freed up.
Reuters reports that the new US policy contradicts Russian claims to seabed rich in oil and gas. Canadian press like the National Post are focused on the Northwest Passage: the US has asserted its right to sail the newly navigable waterway, which the White House calls an international strait but Canada says it owns.
The directives even look toward opportunities for terrorism in a warmer Arctic, says a press release reprinted at Dot Earth (alongside links and details on the new docs). The release is clear about the new reality up north:
Fourteen years have passed since the last review of federal Arctic policy. Our understanding of climate change in the Arctic has caused all Arctic nations to reassess their policies in the Arctic. In addition, with the increase in summer melting of Arctic sea ice, human activity is increasing. This raises new questions about the potential expansion of fisheries, pollution, energy exploration and development, and the nature of sustainable economic development in the region.
“When it comes to energy, the notion isn’t a race to the Arctic to put our flags down,” a National Security Council spokesman told Reuters – in a seeming jibe at Russia’s flag-planting expedition at the underwater North Pole. “Our approach is going to be dealing with our fellow Arctic nations in finding ways to access and develop, when it comes to energy specifically, that takes into account conservation and the environment.”
Next week’s Arctic Frontiers conference in Norway takes a look at what more we can expect from climatic and political change at the pole. Nature will be dispatching Quirin Schiermeier to listen in.