Thursday, 2 April 2009

Cold Rush

As Barack Obama and Dimitry Medvedev meet in London, further north relations are not so warm.

According to the Guardian newspaper, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/28/russia-gas-oil-arctic-nato) Russia has announced plans for a dedicated military force to patrol the Arctic.

As the Arctic warms and its ice melts, facilitating access for ships and offshore drilling rigs, northern countries (including the EU) are lining up to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the polar region. In 2007 Russia planted a titanium flag on the seabed under the North Pole, laying claim to the area, and last September Mr Medvedev said that the region must become Russia's strategic resource base for the 21st century. This attitude has heightened international tensions, and the suggestion by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, in January that NATO should have a presence in the region was not well received in Russia.

The jockeying for position to exploit remaining fossil fuel reserves is short-sighted and runs directly counter to our imperative need to combat climate change. We need to stop burning fossil fuels and investigate other, cleaner forms of energy. The Arctic contains an estimated quarter of the world's unexplored oil and gas reserves and its exploitation will have a huge effect on the climate.

The benefits of a few more years of cheap "business as usual" cannot outweigh the costs. This short-term bonanza will have severe consequences for us all.

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