Arctic Council Convenes to Discuss Climate Change

Arctic Council Convenes to Discuss Climate ChangeArctic Council Convenes to Discuss Climate Change

Ministers from Arctic nations gathered in northern Canada on Friday to shine a spotlight on one of the planet’s most remote regions.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as everywhere else on the globe, and US officials last month said the Arctic sea ice had reached its lowest winter point since satellite observations began in the late 1970s, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

While the polar melt is of major concern because of rising sea levels, it is also opening up new ocean trade routes, and offering the tantalizing promise of untapped offshore oil and gas fields in an energy-hungry world.

With new opportunities, however, come new challenges and rivalries, something the United States will have to shepherd for the next two years as it takes over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

US Secretary of State John Kerry Friday arrived in the town of Iqaluit, on Baffin Island, to meet other ministers from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden.

They will be joined by observers from the region’s indigenous peoples and nations, including from China.

“The dangers are enormous in terms of sea-level rise and what could happen if Greenland’s ice melts,” Kerry said.

“These compounded dangers, and the fact that this is pristine wilderness that’s being affected, should jog someone’s moral conscience.”

  Untapped wealth

Nations are gearing up for major UN talks in Paris in December to agree a new international pact pegging global warming to 2C over pre-industrial levels.

Kerry has voiced concern about government commitments to ensuring the necessary cut in fossil fuels to keep temperatures at the 2 degrees Celsius mark.

“We’re not meeting that goal, and it bothers me immensely,” Kerry told the Post.

According to a 2008 study by the US Geological Survey, the Arctic may hold 13 percent of the planet’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world’s natural gas.

The melting ice also creates shorter shipping routes between the Pacific and the Atlantic -- connecting markets in Europe and Asia.

The number of ships crossing the Bering Strait is already on the rise with the US Coast Guard saying the number of vessels making the voyage nearly doubled between 2009 and 2012 and again from 2012 to last year, to 440.