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Science Government Politics

Countries Plan Land Rush in Warming Arctic 657

Noel Bourke sent in a pointer to this story about northern nations maneuvering to claim land in the Arctic. Fossil fuels, shipping lanes, and fishing are among the economic interests at stake, in an opportunity opened up by the melting Arctic ice.
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Countries Plan Land Rush in Warming Arctic

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  • by Lindsay Lohan ( 847467 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:35PM (#11292056) Homepage Journal
    At stake, in what could be the last great territorial land-grab, is the promise of untold mineral riches
    Where humans have tread, the Arctic has suffered. Plans for a northern shipping route through the Russian Arctic could open up oil, gas, and other natural resources for exploitation. This could increase the risk of oil spills and introduce species such as rats to the ecoregion, which could have drastic consequences for nesting seabirds. The Novaya Zemlya area has a unique problem. It has been serving as a test area for nuclear weapons and suffers from elevated levels of plutonium, cesium, and other radioactive pollutants.
    • by WinterSolstice ( 223271 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:41PM (#11292124)
      There are waaaay bigger problems than that. Sorry, but environmentalism aside, we will have some serious human issues if the ice packs that are currently *not* floating begin to melt. Sea levels rising more than a bit will cause some pretty nasty issues.


      • The entire floating ice pack in the arctic could melt and it wouldn't effect the water level one bit. Why? BECAUSE IT'S FLOATING ALREADY.

        Here's a little experiment:

        - fill a glass with ice and put some water in it. Come back in a few hours and see if the glass has overflowed water all over the table.

        It won't. It's a thing called displacement.

        Melting the arctic ice pack is of little consequence to sea level. Note: melting the northern ice pack would certainly have MASSIVE ecological consequences, but

    • which could have drastic consequences for nesting seabirds

      Not to mention the effects this could have on Santa's Workshop and band of midg... errm... elves.
    • by nacturation ( 646836 ) <> on Friday January 07, 2005 @07:03PM (#11292374) Journal
      This could increase the risk of oil spills and introduce species such as rats to the ecoregion, which could have drastic consequences for nesting seabirds.

      Well there's an easy solution to the rat problem. Just import a bunch of cats into the region and they'll take care of the rats handily. Then the seabirds can nest in peace. Oh, wait...
    • Where humans have lived, just about every other life form except the rat and roach have suffered. Do you propose we start a policy of zero population grown and euthanasia for those of us still living? Everything evolves including the world, and one day our world will die.
    • Let's face it - no matter where humanity goes, the environment will suffer. (Nor does this apply solely to humans, in fact - wherever any species enters an established ecosystem, the existing inhabitants of that ecosystem will suffer. It's simply that humans are better able to compete and thrive in new environments than any other species). The best solution to protect the environment would, in fact, be to commit mass genocide against the human race. Hence, simply arguing that humans will damage the arc
      • ---
        Let's face it - no matter where humanity goes, the environment will suffer.

        No, the environment will CHANGE. Suffer is simply you expressing your opinion, and a rather silly opinion at that, since it assumes the existing environment is automatically the best possible environment, and that all environments are, by default, static and unchanging.
  • Back off! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:36PM (#11292080)
    "Back off, get your own arctic!" - Canada
  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:39PM (#11292103) Journal
    And the Antartic freezes back up.

    6000 years later everyone will be standing around a block of ice that washes ashore gawking at the well preserved specimen of prehistoric man.
  • by CygnusXII ( 324675 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:42PM (#11292144)
    What no one disagrees with is the riches that would come from the thaw creating a north-west passage. The centuries-old bane of Arctic explorers could become a reality thanks to global warming, cutting thousands of miles off the shipping routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and delivering a windfall to any country able to tax its users.
    Wars, have been started for less. Also it's nice to see Global Warming getting a good rap for something.
  • the North Pole could be ice-free in summertime by the end of the century. Around the Arctic, salmon are moving up into more northerly waters, hornets are beginning to buzz and barn owls are appearing in regions where indigenous people have never seen a barn

    Whoever gets this land, is going to roll in the wealth of minerals and oil...

    World War 3, begins this year...

  • by JJahn ( 657100 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:42PM (#11292147)
    ...says a newspaper based in New Zealand. :-)
  • by Ex Fish ( 771670 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:44PM (#11292161)
    The world is melting and all we wanna do is milk it for some bucks. Whoever designed the human brain was obviously using windows, cuz smething is seriously screwed up there. One step closer to Capitalism eating itself, friends.
    • I hate to break it to you but the Earth's climate has always been in constant change. Don't think there is any law that says it has to stay the way it is now for eternity because now we have environmentalists to fret about it.

      Though I'll grant you that the rate of change we are seeing and will see may be a cause for alarm and there is a pretty good chance it is man made. In particular if the change is to rapid many species will be wiped out because they wont be able to adapt quickly enough.

      Most of the B
    • here are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production- with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas - parts of I
    • Wow, a Microsoft and capitalism troll all in one! Thats right, Linux cave save the world from global warming and greed! Hoooray!

      This is just human nature. We're overglorified monkeys that evolved to a hazardous state of dominance that can only be challenged by massive ecological disaster, and our own efforts at offsetting greed feed into this phenomenon. We simply have no need to get smarter, and will have to come close to wiping ourselves out in order for any meaningful evolution of the species to ha

    • The basic human greed underlying this is not peculiar to capitalism. Look at the problem, not the symptoms. Frankly I'd rather have capitalism than raw human greed, as at least capitalism provides some structure and control for this human nature. Otherwise you'd have people standing in days-long lines and killing each other for a roll of toilet paper or a pound of beef.
      • Sure would be nice if we still had capitalism, wouldn't it? I might not even have "Marxist" in my name if the corporations hadn't have evolved into imitation people that make even the Grinch look like a kind and generous soul.
    • well, i pretty much resigned to the fact that some will be as disgusting/unethical/etc. no matter the situation. look at some awful things being done to take advantage of the indian ocean tsunami disaster - orphan trading being the worst example. and this is an immediate disaster that can be seen and felt - arctic ice melting has only long (i.e. "inconsequential") effects...
    • Capitalism? Tell me why in the hell would you chastise capitalism for this, when communist countries have much worse records where it comes to environmental issues?

      Well, capitalism doesn't fare better just because it's capitalism -- but, all democratic countries at the moment are capitalist (no, people's democracy is as far from democracy as it can be), and that gives them a chance of having the voices of people heard.
      In communism, the Party rules unchecked, and people have nothing to say. And, caring ab
    • by thomasdelbert ( 44463 ) <> on Friday January 07, 2005 @07:21PM (#11292550)

      It's quite simple. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

      Perhaps I will explain using examples on a smaller scale.

      Do you criticize the autobody man that makes a buck off someone haveing a car accident? Yes, he profits off someone's misery, but he fills a need.

      Do you criticize a factory that starts making jerry cans and body bags because a nearby country got washed out by a tsunami? Yes, the factory makes money out of the misery of others. They also fill a need.

      Melting ice caps and the openning of the northwest passage is an issue of national security in Canada - our waterways and shores need to be protected and that is incredibly difficult to do if the north is unpopulated.

      Nobody will pretend that the tsunami is a good thing and nobody will pretend that global warming is good, but every challenge presents a need and every need presents an opporunity and that is the essence of capitalism.

      - Thomas;
      • I think you missed the point of the parent.

        Its not so much that capitalism is "bad" because nothing is sacred (that is, everything is a commodity), but that it is unsustainable because long-term conseqences (often referred to as externalities) are not factored into the decision making process.

        Of what we've seen in the past few years, it seems that Marx was right. Capitalism will collapse under its own weight.
  • Allocation... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FalconZero ( 607567 ) * <FalconZero.Gmail@com> on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:44PM (#11292163)
    Hey! Lets just allocate the new land as a straight swap for contries that lose land under the raised sea level.
    Holland looks lucky (or unlucky if you count the relocation costs.)
    ...And here in the UK, the English, in the Southern (mostly) flatlands, have to move to the north pole, making Scotland a sunny resort.
  • Talk about... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hamstij ( 831222 )
    ... the rape of the natural world.

    Sometimes I wonder if I really am the only one that gives a shit.

    Am I the only one that mourns for all the lost (and soon to be lost) species?

    • Am I the only one that mourns for all the lost (and soon to be lost) species?
      That's "half-empty" type thinking, I prefer to celebrate all the new species that will arise to take advantage of the new habitats.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No, somewhere a single tear drips down the cheek of a noble American Indian.
  • I wonder what will happen if this warming trend only lasts ten or fifteen years and then the ice closes back in. Will they find enough natural resources that are worth risking having the returning ice crush millions of dollars worth of equipment if the temperature starts to drop again?.

    It is nice to think that there are still people out there who are so eager to explore this new area. As I watch people going to the front window in our office to trigger the remote starters on their cars (it's 20F here today
    • As I watch people going to the front window in our office to trigger the remote starters on their cars (it's 20F here today)

      Wow, talk about different worlds. When it's 20F here most people aren't even wearing hats and mittens yet, let alone warming their car before they start to drive... We do that about the time it hits 0F.
  • Melting Ice caps (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:48PM (#11292210) Homepage Journal
    The melting of Ice caps would also create opportunities for beach front property in Nevada. Get the top maps and find the 200 foot above sea level elevation and stake your claim now - or least for your children.
  • Quick! (Score:2, Funny)

    by xv4n ( 639231 )
    Deploy and send the AT-AT's !!!
  • Thin Ice (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:50PM (#11292233) Homepage Journal
    Watch for the US military to grab a role in "policing the sealanes" across the new arctic circle routes. Watch for the Russian military to challenge that role, backed by nuclear weapons. Watch for Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland to form a competing coalition that loses out because they're too nice.
    • Watch for Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland to form a competing coalition that loses out because they're too nice.

      Oh, I suspect the Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes, at least, might do a little, ah, rediscovering their heritage if things get nasty enough. The Scandinavian reputation for politeness is a pretty recent phenomenon.
      • I figured that the Scandanavian reputation for viking was earned by those they forced out of their lands, leaving the better-behaved at home. But they produced some savage sailors for thousands of years, so perhaps their basic demand for order will once again start bearing fruit in a new scourge of the seas, if they again have someplace to go.
    • Then again, Canada did just buy a submarine from England a few months back to play a role in policing the northern waters (primarily against US interests, I imagine). Granted, the sumbarine broke down en-route from England and things didn't go so well for the Canadians, but it's nice to see them give it a try.

    • Re:Thin Ice (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 ( 410832 )
      "Watch for the US military to grab a role in "policing the sealanes" across the new arctic circle routes."

      Nevermind the fact that the US has one of the longest Arctic shorelines in the world (behind Russia, Canada and Denmark/Greenland).

      Nevermind that the US has been one of the most active in the Arctic Ocean in recent decades (thanks to nuclear submarines and the various ice stations they support).

      Nevermind that nobody else seems to have any interest in taking over the US' role in "policing the sealane
    • Canadians are not stupid, if we really need a military, we'll do like the Saudi's, and rent the american one. it's much cheaper than having your own, much better for morale at home, and the american soldiers aren't bright enough to know the difference between defending thier own country or somebody elses anyways. Hell, they cant even tell the difference between invading another country, and defending the usa. See them every day on the tv, proud to 'defend america', dont have the heart to tell them that a
  • Already divied up? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by macdaddy ( 38372 ) * on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:51PM (#11292238) Homepage Journal
    I thought that the land was already divied up? Wait, I must be thinking of Antartica. International waters only extend 6 miles from a country's shores. Can a country legally stake a claim to international waters?
    • Can a country legally stake a claim to international waters?

      Legally according to whose law? US? Russian? Or god forbid(according to you guys atleast); UN?

      Sadly, there is no such things as international laws, only mildly binding intranational agreements.

    • by Frogbert ( 589961 ) <> on Friday January 07, 2005 @07:41PM (#11292761)
      The Antartic has beed divided up already and Australia has a majority stake in it, Australian Antartic Territory has its own stamps these days and is counted as part of Australia's territories along with places such as Papua New Guinne and Christmas Island (of goatse fame)

      Australia came to own this stake in 1961 when a treaty was signed by us and 11 other countries and since then 45 more countries have signed the agreement.

      More information here [] and a complete list of signitories here []

      A nifty map can be found in PDF form here []

      And an example of the stamps here []

      note New Zealands crappy share... suck on that kiwi's
  • Heh, after all the flak I get on Slashdot everytime there is an article on global warming and I point out that a smart long term investor should be buying up coastal real estate in Canada, Alaska and Siberia. I also routinely point out you don't want to buy real estate that is to coastal since you have to allow for the fact the coastlines are going to move dramaticly as all that ice melts.
  • by donutz ( 195717 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:52PM (#11292249) Homepage Journal
    The Arctic report said polar bears were "unlikely to survive as a species" if the ice disappeared and they were left to compete with their better-adapted brown and grizzly cousins.

    I vote that we relocate all the polar bears to Antarctica. For too long have we northern-hemispherer's hoarded all those cuddly big white bears to ourselves. Now that we're unable to sustain their population, we should take them to the coldest continent, where there are no brown or grizzly bears, where they can be the dominant species.

    Look out Mr Penguin, looks like there'll be a new kid on the block.
    • I vote that we relocate all the polar bears to Antarctica.

      Particularly since it seems like a significant portion of the people I've met already believe that polar bears hunt penguins for food.
  • "At her desk in an overheated, cupboard-sized office lined with polar maps on both walls, the Danish scientist with her blonde hair and broad forehead looks a true descendant of her Viking forebears."

    They're not serious right? This just gotta be a joke. Or no? Is it just NZ thats a joke?

    This is just tragic.
  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:54PM (#11292278)
    erm.. forgive me here, but isn't the Arctic totally landless? Antarctica is a continent, but the Arctic is simply frozen water. No land. At all.

    (and yes, I read the article, but it was a bit boring really. Why can't Russia control it as it has all those nuclear subs hanging around the place, or Canada that sort-of owns all the cold bits anyway. Denmark.... good luck guys :) )
    • I am not really sure, but I think you are correct. I know some parts aren't navigable as the ice goes down for miles, but I thought it was all ice.
      I always thought it was why that russia and the USA have both sent Subs to the North pole.

      They can go under the ice. it was still dangerous, like driving through a tunnel without any lights on and lot's of curves in the tunnel.
    • Under the Arctic Ice (Score:3, Informative)

      by WebCowboy ( 196209 )
      erm.. forgive me here, but isn't the Arctic totally landless? If the ice were to melt away it would expose the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and northern coastal areas of Greenland, Siberia and Alaska, among other places. The corresponding rise in sea-levels might put some of the Canadian islands underwater but there would still be a considerable increase in exposed, above-sea landmass.

      So, not only would there be land to use, much of it would be waterfront property. Considering the Canadian Arc
  • by DrKyle ( 818035 )
    I guess one of the reasons us Canadians support it is this way we can keep those damn Russians and Danes from stealing Santa's mail []. (You all knew Santa is Canadian, right?)
  • in related news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 07, 2005 @06:58PM (#11292322) Homepage Journal
    Countries plan land rush in Hell

    Hubris, arrogance, and lack of foresight are among the karmic interests at stake, in an opportunity opened up by the melting Arctic ice.

    Although... maybe Erik the Red can finally make good on the biggest real estate swindle of the last 2 millenia: giving "Greenland" [] it's real estate-friendly but truth-defying name.

    The name Greenland comes from those Scandinavian settlers. In the Norse sagas, it is said that Eiríkur Rauði (Erik the Red) was exiled from Iceland for murder. He, along with his family and slaves, set out in longships to find the land that was rumoured to be to the north-west. After settling there, he named the land Greenland in order to attract more people to settle there.

  • Sorry, but it's all ice up there.

    What an ironic "land-grab" this will turn out to be when it all melts out from under them.
  • Like... helping to prevent the arctic from warming?
  • by MonkeyCookie ( 657433 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @07:25PM (#11292597)
    I know they're in a rush to claim the North Pole and all, but it's just a bunch of ice floating in the ocean. That's hardly valuable to me. All the minerals would probably be found on the arctic islands, which are already claimed mostly by Russia and Canada.

    I'm sure if someone other that the U.S., good ol' G.W. will "melt their hopes" with lasers from his newfangled missile defense system that he's planning.

    Either that or the current tendancy of the U.S. government to ignore things like greenhouse gasses and global warning will do the job without having to fire a single laser.

    Anyone find it ironic that the New Zealand Herald is reporting on this? That's about as far as you can get from a country with arctic interests.
  • Ratios. . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Friday January 07, 2005 @08:24PM (#11293094)
    So does this mean the debate is finally over as to whether or not global warming is a reality?

    --Actually, I'd be curious to know the ratio of Internet Explorer users to people who spent the last ten years in environmental denial. --As well as to people who think torture in Iraq is no worse than college 'hazing'. And to those who bought into the whole WMD thing. Indeed, I wonder how many common threads there are among people who still have their heads plugged into the Matrix.


  • View from Canadia (Score:5, Informative)

    by maggard ( 5579 ) <> on Friday January 07, 2005 @09:29PM (#11293529) Homepage Journal
    Wow, what a weird article.

    And weirder, but not surprisingly, the responses here on /.

    For those of us in Canada this isn't news. There's a special branch of the armed services that patrols the far north, made up primarily of natives. This is done not only to 'keep an eye on things' but to maintain sovereignty.

    There's also more effort being put into patrolling the waters now. The Russians have made a play for shipping, and the US too, trying for a new NW Passage. Canada isn't enthused about this considering it'd have to handle any rescues and should there be an accident, likely in those challenging waters, the environmental consequences would be catastrophic for the region.

    A bit further down the melt is having terrible effects. The famous ice highways that have been an important means of supplying northern communities and projects are experiencing unpredictable weather and dramatically changing 'ground' conditions. Routes that have been reliable for 40 years are now unusable and new ones difficult to find.

    Outside of deep winter the thaw line is wreaking devastation on communities as roads and foundations heave and subside. Inexorably moving northward the land is turning into the half-frozen tundra-bog that used to be typical of further south.

    Along with this change the animals and plants are struggling to keep up as seasons alter, new competitors emerge, and interdependencies fail. Rodents, owls, plants, insects, all sorts of things are showing up in places they haven't been for thousands of years and affecting what had been there. That this is alarming the cultures who've also lived there thousands of years is an understatement.

    Heck, even in 'southern' Canada the warming is having a direct effect. Snow cover is less every year. This is actually kinda good news for the ski industry as the expectation is US resorts will suffer in comparison and business will move north. However along with this the hydrology of areas is changing as the spring flood are also less and less every year.

    Agriculturally Canadian farmers are increasingly adopting plants they couldn't successfully raise before. Crops are going into the ground earlier and the growing season keeps getting longer. This isn't all a panacea though, for instance PEI potatoes benefit from the cold that kills soil pathogens every winter, without that blights could become a huge problem.

    Climate-wise Canada is getting very concerned for what the future holds for it. Planning for large projects now regularly includes future climate considerations. Even trade is affected: Already bulk international water sales have been outlawed for fear of setting precedent.

    This newish century is shaping up to be an interesting one on planet Earth. Where much of the big history of the last century was human events this one may well be that of human effects.

  • by heybo ( 667563 ) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @02:24AM (#11295096) Homepage
    Why is it that everytime a new piece of land is found either on this planet or even explored on the Moon or Mars some white guy has to stick a flag on it and call it theirs?

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."