Sober reflections on Doomsday in the Arctic Ocean

“The doomsday [scenario] would be competitive resource wars. As climate change gets worse, people will be pushed to get more resources to run their air conditioners and so forth. My prediction is that we are still going to be addicted to oil (when the main icecaps melt) and these resources are going to be extracted by the most powerful lot – which would include Russia, the US and China.” Paul Wapner

The Doomsday scenario is a pathetic joke – but only up to a point. We can only pity those who believe they can predict the coming of Christ [a strange view for Christians who claim to believe the Bible, given that it clearly says that “no one knows” and “it is not for you to know”], but to scorn the trends for humanity on a finite earth whose resources are limited is equally foolish. The trajectories of many indicators are unpromising: population growth, unremitting demand for fossil fuels, persistent insurgencies demanding more access to the good things of life, the readiness of great powers to fight for control of resource-rich lands, melting icecaps, rising seas. These and other conditions in the contemporary world call for sober assessment of what’s ahead. How is the world to avoid a wholesale meltdown? This is no time to gloat over the folly of those who try to set a date for the end of the world.

Consider for instance the prospect of the opening of the Arctic Sea to international concourse along with access to possibly huge amounts of oil. Shouldn’t that be good news? Well, not as the various interested parties see it. Yesterday, the day that according to Harold Camping was supposed to be Doomsday, Chris Arsenault published in Al Jazeera a report on what the recent WikiLeaks reveal about the foreseeable future for the Arctic. [Click on the title above for a link to the source.]

WikiLeaks: A battle to ‘carve up’ the Arctic: Resource wars are possible as global warming melts polar ice – opening new areas to oil exploitation, cables indicate.
Chris Arsenault Last Modified: 21 May 2011

Energy experts estimate that the Arctic contains more than one fifth of the world’s petroleum [GALLO/GETTY]
It is considered the final frontier for oil and gas exploitation, and secret US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks confirm that nations are battling to “carve up” the Arctic’s vast resources.

“The twenty-first century will see a fight for resources,” Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin was quoted as saying in a 2010 cable. “Russia should not be defeated in this fight.”

Along with exposing an estimated 22 per cent of the world’s oil, ice melting due to global warming will open new shipping lanes, the arteries of global commerce, which nations are competing to control. And Russia certainly is not the only country eyeing the frozen prize.

Per Stig Moller, then Danish foreign minister, mused in a 2009 cable that “new shipping routes and natural resource discoveries would eventually place the region at the centre of world politics”.

Canada, the US, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and perhaps even China, have competing claims to the Arctic, a region about the size of Africa, comprising some six per cent of the Earth’s surface.

‘Resource wars’

“The WikiLeaks cables show us realpolitik in its rarest form,” says Paul Wapner, director of the global environmental politics programme at American University in Washington. “Diplomats continue to think of this as a zero sum world. When they see exploitable resources, all things being equal, they are going to approach them through a competitive nation state system.”

The cables come to light at a time when academics and activists fear resource scarcity, particularly over dwindling oil and drinking water supplies, could lead to new international conflicts.

Sir David King, the UK government’s former chief scientific adviser, called the invasion of Iraq “the first of [this century’s] resource wars”, warning that “powerful nations will secure resources for their own people at the expense of others”.

In 2007, Russia planted its flag 4,000 metres below the Arctic Ocean, in an attempt to claim that its continental shelf, the geological formation by which claims are measured, extends far into the frozen zone.
“Behind Russia’s policy are two potential benefits accruing from global warming, the prospect for an [even seasonally] ice-free shipping route from Europe to Asia, and the estimated oil and gas wealth hidden beneath the Arctic sea floor,” noted a 2009 cable articulating US beliefs.

Presently, the Russians are far ahead of the US and other Arctic countries to take advantage of what will happen offshore, says Bruce Forbes, a research professor at the Arctic Centre at the University of Lapland in Finland. “The cables confirm what we as scientists already know; [global warming means] the Arctic is not just this hinterland, as it is portrayed in the mainstream media.”

In its 2010 Quadrennial Defence Review report, the Pentagon stated: “Climate change and energy are two issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment.” . . .

[For more, click on the title above.]