To the worlds military leaders,the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic,anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources,long-dreamed-of sea lanes and a slew of potential conflicts.
By Arctic standards,the region is already buzzing with military activity,and experts believe that will increase significantly in the years ahead.
Last month,Norway wrapped up one of the largest Arctic manoeuvres ever,Exercise Cold Response,with 16,300 troops from 14 countries training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats. Attesting to the harsh conditions,five troops were killed when their aircraft crashed near Kebnekaise,Swedens highest mountain.
The US,Canada and Denmark held major exercises two months ago,and in an unprecedented move,the military chiefs of eight main Arctic powers,Canada,the US,Russia,Iceland,Denmark,Sweden,Norway and Finland,met at a Canadian military base last week to discuss regional security.
None of this means a shooting war is likely at the North Pole any time soon. But as the number of workers and ships increases to exploit oil and gas reserves,so will the need for policing,border patrols and military muscle to enforce rival claims. The US Geological Survey estimates 13 per cent of the worlds undiscovered oil and 30 per cent of its untapped natural gas is in the Arctic. Shipping lanes could be open across the Arctic by 2030 as rising temperatures melt sea ice,according to a National Research Council analysis commissioned by the US Navy.