Will the Arctic be the next big arena of conflict?

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

The warming Arctic is likely to be a new arena of conflict between Russia and the USA.

But unlike in current conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, there will be no question of democracy or a fight against terrorism to cloud the central issue—control of oil and gas resources and transportation routes.

The infrographic by the South China Morning Post provides a good snapshot of the situation.   The potential conflict in the Arctic is even more dangerous than existing conflicts, because of its potential for direct confrontation between the USA and Russia.

The other nations with the greatest physical presence in the Arctic are Canada and Denmark (which controls Greenland).   It will be interesting to see whether they will follow the lead of the United States or try to steer an independent course.

The irony of the situation is that the Arctic is being opened up by global warming, which causes the Arctic ice cap to shrink over time, and that the warming is caused mainly by burning of fossil fuels, but the new oil and gas supplied from the Arctic will make it easier and cheaper to keep on burning fossil fuels.

The best outcome would be for the Arctic powers to agree on sharing and conserving the region’s resources.  That doesn’t seem likely anytime soon.

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4 Responses to “Will the Arctic be the next big arena of conflict?”

  1. Atticus Says:

    Hi Phil – I actually read that the arctic ice is expanding (via NASA). Contrary to popular reporting and predictions. Personally, I don’t know which is correct.



  2. philebersole Says:

    Hi, Atticus

    The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is expanding and the West Antarctic and Antarctic Peninsula ice sheets are shrinking. The overall balance is that the ice sheet is shrinking



    The ice sheet is land ice, equivalent to the Greenland glacier. Sea ice surrounding the Antarctic continent is not shrinking.

    Because the Antarctic is not (for now) warming as the Arctic is, some climate scientists think that the Antarctic ice sheets and sea ice may be more stable than the Greenland ice sheet and north polar sea ice.



    Some people do claim that the Arctic ice cap is expanding. Its’ maximum shrinkage to day was in 2007, so if you take that as your starting point, you can argue that it is expanding.

    The long-term trend since 1979, when the government first started measuring the size of the Arctic ice cap, is that the ice cap is shrinking. That is the assumption that government and corporate leaders are operating on.



  3. philebersole Says:

    Climate scientists believe that the Antarctic ice sheet comprises more than two-thirds of the world’s fresh water!!!


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