Race for the Arctic

August 2008 • Volume 2, Issue 8
Who owns the region's undiscovered oil and gas?
By Brian Beary

Introduction

Icebergs dwarf a fishing boat near Ilulissat, Greenland, where officials from five Arctic nations met in May to discuss their claims to the Arctic Ocean seabed and its potential oil and gas reserves.  (© B&C Alexander/Arcticphoto.com)
Icebergs dwarf a fishing boat near Ilulissat, Greenland, where officials from five Arctic nations met in May to discuss their claims to the Arctic Ocean seabed and its potential oil and gas reserves. (© B&C Alexander/Arcticphoto.com)

With oil prices soaring, revelations that the Arctic could contain up to 22 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas have given extra impetus to an international race to claim the region's $1 trillion in oil and other riches. Russia kick-started the race last summer when it stunned the world by planting its flag on the North Pole seabed — two miles below the Arctic Ocean. Global warming has dramatically shrunk the ice covering the ocean, raising the prospect of new, shorter transcontinental shipping routes and spurring the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark and Norway to begin gathering data to prove they own large swaths of offshore Arctic territory. But environmentalists warn that tougher international rules are needed — possibly an Arctic treaty — to prevent energy exploration from exacerbating global warming and damaging the fragile region. The Inuit and other indigenous groups also fear their concerns will be ignored in the dash to extract riches from the region.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Natural Resources
Dec. 20, 2011  The Resource Curse
Dec. 09, 2011  Water Crisis in the West
Jan. 18, 2011  Disappearing Forests
Aug. 2008  Race for the Arctic
Feb. 2008  Looming Water Crisis
Oct. 28, 1988  The Battle for Natural Resources
Mar. 21, 1951  International Control of Essential Materials
Oct. 11, 1935  Raw Materials and World Peace
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Energy and the Environment
International Law and Agreements
Oil and Natural Gas