The disappearance of ice from the planet’s North Pole currently in progress means unprecedented access to minerals and energy that have been trapped beneath the surface for ages.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Year Book 2013, released Monday, led U.N leaders to touch on the event.
“What we are seeing is that the melting of ice is prompting a rush for exactly the fossil fuel resources that fueled the melt in the first place,” said Achim Steiner, U.N. under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director.
“As the UNEP Year Book 2013 points out, the rush to exploit these vast untapped reserves has consequences that must be carefully thought through by countries everywhere, given the global impacts and issues at stake.”
In September, the area of Arctic sea ice reached its lowest measurement on the satellite record, which dates back to 1979. Scientists say the region could be ice free during the summers by 2030-2040.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil is in the Arctic. Several companies, including Russia’s Rosneft, Norway’s Statoil and U.S.-based Exxon Mobil are getting ready to drill in areas of melting sea ice, despite the risks, technological difficulties and costs.
Some countries have estimated that the Northern Sea Route would be turned into a shipping highway, with a 40-fold increase in shipping by 2020.
There is also likely to be a boom in fisheries. A widely predicted northward shift in sub-arctic fish species, including Atlantic and Pacific cod, is now being detected. It is estimated that fish catches in the high latitudes, including the Arctic, could increase by 30 to 70 percent by 2055.
NASA Goddard Photo and Video (CC BY 2.0)