Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Up near the North Pole.

Here's a piece by Robert Wade in today's Financial Times about the political and economic ramifications of global warming in the Arctic Ocean. Rising temperatures will mean less ice, which makes the Arctic more attractive to shipping. "Shanghai to Rotterdam via the north-east route across the top of Russia is almost 1,000 miles shorters than via Suez." Canada and Russia claim the right to control sea traffic even beyond the continental shelf, but international law on the question is unclear. These new shipping routes will have other effects.
Tiny Iceland suddenly takes on new geo-economic significance. It sits at the mouth of the Arctic Ocean, ideally located for transhipment of cargoes to or from giant container ships travelling between Iceland and a transhipment port in the Bering Sea. It has at least three plausible deep fjord sites. China maintains the biggest of all the embassies in Reykjavik and it welcomed the president of Iceland with all the pomp normally reserved for the head of a major state on his visit in 2007. It has been very helpful as Iceland seeks election to the United Nations Security Council in 2008.
There's more there, about the environmental consequences and the politics of the Arctic Council.

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