Climate Change and Power Shifts in the Arctic Region

Northern Lights
Climate Change and Power Shifts in the Arctic Region - Chiara Rogate & Marco Ferrara


Climate change, while not determining power shifts on its own, often acts as a stress multiplier on existing tensions and instabilities. Using the current political struggle over the Arctic as a case study, this paper evaluates how climate change affects global power relations by altering the existing international status quo. The analysis shows how a nontraditional security phenomenon is leading to the emergence of traditional security dilemmas, such as competition over resources and interstate tensions over boundary demarcations. The status quo reflects an increasingly fragile situation, compounded by the lack of legal mechanisms for resolving and adjudicating actual and potential disputes over the Arctic region.

Climate Change and the International Agenda

“Thus it happens in affairs of state, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, they have been permitted to grow in a way that everyone can see them, there is no longer a remedy.”1

— Niccolò Machiavelli, Chapter 3, The Prince

Climate science is old: as early as 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius suggested a link between higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere and an increase in temperature. New, however, are concerns about climate change. Although such concerns began to emerge in the 1970s,2 only in the last two decades did they find a higher place on the international agenda. The post-Cold War era witnessed the emergence of non-conventional security threats, and environmental factors were soon recognized as a fundamental dimension in the new security paradigm, where the focus on security within states was added to the traditional concept of security between and among states.

Environmental security constitutes one of the seven fundamental dimensions of human security, as per the definition given by the 1994 United Nations Human Development Report. Moreover, since publication of the Brundtland Report, “Our Common Future” in 1987, linkages have been created between environmental and security issues. Environmental degradation and security is increasingly receiving attention in literature, individual states, and international and supranational organizations. In 2003, the first European Security Strategy recognized the link between climate change and the competition for natural resources; this was reconfirmed in the 2008 revision to the document. More recently, climate change became part of the United States’ “National Security Strategy” and of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) new “Strategic Concept”, both of which emphasize that environmental and resource constraints will shape the future security environment, potentially affecting the military alliance’s planning and operations.3

Since 1992 when the United Nation’s Convention on Climate Change was established, climate change negotiations have attempted to achieve global consensus in efforts to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change effects. The issue has been added to the agendas of not only the United Nations (UN), but also of regional forums such as the Asia Pacific Partnership, the Major Economies Forum, and the G-8. Furthermore, climate change is increasingly present in the programs of international agencies, from the World Bank to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Although skepticism exists, there is widespread scientific consensus that the changes now under way in the Earth's climate system have no precedent in the history of human civilization.4 In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change characterized such trends as “unequivocal”.5 Moreover, there is a growing recognition that slowing or reversing such trends constitutes one of the major challenges and greatest concerns of our time.6

Is Climate Change Leading to Power Shifts?

There is no evidence that climate change per se will lead to power shifts; however, the consequences of climate change could lead to an increase in state vulnerability, which could in turn constitute a precondition for changes in the international balance of power. As this paper attempts to demonstrate, climate change could alter the conditions in which states operate, or function, and hence act as a catalyst for changes in diplomatic and security relations. Climate change negotiations currently are offering several states the opportunity to consolidate their multilateral commitments. Furthermore, the issue has been debated and negotiated in regional venues as mentioned earlier, confirming a tendency to discuss this global issue at the regional level. At the international level, the definition of climate change as a threat or as a stress multiplier has been widely adopted.7 In fact, climate change is seen as having a multiplying effect on existing security threats and instabilities – such as resource scarcity – possibly leading to increases in conflict, failed or fragile states, drought, spreading of disease, extreme weather events, and environmental refugees. Between 25 million and one billion people are expected to migrate by 2050 due to climate change.8

The Darfur conflict has been described as the first conflict to be driven by climate change;9however, further analysis indicates that it was, in fact, the product of several variables and that climate change acted more as a stressor than as a threat multiplier. Although the desert in northern Sudan advanced southward by 60 miles over the past 40 years and rainfall dropped by 16%-30%,10 the primary cause of the conflict was a regional clash between pastoral and nomadic populations that escalated when Khartoum recruited Arab militias for an ethnic cleansing campaign against African civilians.

Not to marginalize the importance of ethnic violence, this conflict has also been classified as a byproduct of environmental change. A study conducted by agricultural economist Marshall Burke of the University of California Berkeley analyzed the history of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa between 1980 and 2002, finding that, “Civil wars were much more likely to happen in warmer-than average years."11 Conflicts may arise in an attempt to gain control of scarce resources such as water, but may also occur when resources abound – particularly when they have a marketable value. Furthermore, the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions caused by an increased incidence of drought, such as resource scarcity and pandemic disease in the Southern Hemisphere –particularly in countries located within the equatorial strip12 – will strain the ability of governments to provide social services and assistance, increasing the probability for the development of political tensions. New centers of instability could therefore arise, potentially increasing the number of global flashpoints within which the conditions for humanitarian and military intervention are present, thus increasing international commitments. As previously mentioned, this is clearly stated for instance in NATO’s “Security Concept.”13

Climate change is expected to worsen disparities between the North and the South, in no small part because the countries that are expected to suffer the most are also the least responsible for the phenomenon. The change in living conditions is expected to generate an increase in mass migration, which could in turn lead to further conflicts. Such events could strain the ability of Northern countries to accommodate new waves of immigration and lend further urgency to the challenge of integrating peoples of diverse cultures and religions. However, there is no direct empirical connection between environmental degradation and conflict, and thus it is not possible to adopt a deterministic approach. Moreover, environmental factors are rarely, if ever, the sole cause of conflict: ideology, ethnicity, and power politics are all important factors. On the other hand, climate change could exacerbate tensions that are not necessarily present as threats, or increase the severity and the duration of conflicts.14 Therefore, the definition of climate change as a catalyst for conflict can be defined via the idea of it as a hypervariable,15 by exerting varying pressure on scarce resources, particularly energy, water, and food with differing outcomes.16

While further stressing environmental, economic and political conditions, climate change is also enhancing the diplomatic position of several actors on the international stage. This is particularly true in the case of the European Union (EU). In fact, the topic of climate change presents the EU with an opportunity to lead at both the international and supranational levels. The prevention of climate change has become part of the fabric of an European identity and Brussels has been able to exert structural power by orchestrating regime construction, setting the agenda of international climate change negotiations, and challenging the U.S. position on the issue.17 In addition, climate change and environmental concerns have strengthened EU integration – and, therefore, the EU itself – through a burden-sharing approach between new and old member states. Presently, EU directives determine 80% of member states’ domestic environmental legislation.18 One may also note that the EU is driven in its efforts by concerns about energy security, i.e. the development of renewable energy is seen as a fundamental means of reducing dependence on particular energy suppliers. The transition to a low carbon society constitutes a method of reducing the Union’s external vulnerabilities, as well as the political power of its supplier countries, especially in light of the 2008-2009 gas crisis.

Climate change negotiations are confirming the trend toward regionalism and the weakening of the United Nations. While confidence in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was partially restored in Cancun (2010) and Durban (2011), negotiations are more often being held at other venues, frequently structured on a regional or sub-global basis, offering an opportunity to discuss bottom-up, non-binding agreements. As noted earlier, the Asia Pacific Partnership, the Major Economies Forum, and the G-8 are examples of bodies within which climate change issues are currently being discussed.

Climate Change and Power Shifts in the Arctic Region

The effects of climate change can be paradoxical. While contributing stress to world habitats as well as providing an impetus to rework the economic structures of states in order to mitigate negative consequences of inefficient economic growth, climate change is unfreezing economic opportunities, as seen in the case of the Arctic. The North increasingly has gained geopolitical importance, with attention being centered on the Arctic Circle. Recently, ice shelves in the region have receded at an alarming rate while temperatures have risen at twice the average of rest of the world.19 The magnitude of these effects is apparent when considering that 40 percent of the perennial ice that characterizes this region has melted away in the last quarter century alone.20 As a fulcrum of global climate change, the consequences of such warming trends in the Arctic are apparent not only in the local environment, but throughout the world due to a series of cascading effects that could engender further large-scale climatic change.21 The ‘great thaw’ has shifted the importance of the Arctic within the international arena both politically and economically.

Even before the onset of global warming, the Arctic was already a politically contentious area, principally because it is a weak point within the convoluted web of treaty-based and customary international law. This is mostly due to the fact that unlike the case of Antarctica, there is no overarching treaty governing the ‘High North’. The only applicable international regime to this day remains the “Convention on Law of the Sea”, which was signed in 1982 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and took force beginning in 1994. The treaty establishes general rules for governing maritime navigation and resource exploitation, but does not address issues that are particular to the Polar region, such as the need for a common governance framework,22 nor does it take into account the region’s unique and delicate environmental conditions. Additionally, the treaty has yet to be ratified by all of the Arctic powers, undermining its legitimacy. Consequently, the unfreezing of the glaciers is creating a legal “no-man’s land” without precedent.23 The lack of a systematic governance structure has led to the occurrence of many conflicts as well as significant tension among the Arctic powers – namely Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the U.S.A. – and has, therefore, made involvement in the region sensitive to variations in the international balance.

Traditional and longstanding conflicts in this region are numerous but tend to pivot around certain common themes, such as disputes over contested strips of land, maritime boundary demarcation, and fishing privileges. Such conflicts generally remained ‘frozen’ during the Cold War due to the balance that existed between NATO and the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) as well as an appreciation for the sensitive nature of the area occasionally dubbed the “New Mediterranean” due to its strategic location between North America and present day Russia.24 Both sides found it prudent to bury ongoing conflicts in the area lest they risk worsening existing tensions.25 After the end of the Cold War, conflicts in the area remained crystallized and unresolved for much the opposite reason, namely the region’s relative irrelevance within the new international order. However, conflict has remained and the temporary deflation of the Russian threat created the possibility for broader disagreements over the Arctic among NATO partners.26

With the onset of the 21st century, the ‘grace period’ of relative tranquility in the region ended due to several factors. Primarily, the precarious situation was exacerbated by the onset of global climate change, which added a layer of fresh conflicts to the existing strata of frozen ones. There is no consensus regarding the significance of environmental change on the evolving political situation in the region,27 but climate change has contributed to making exploration and exploitation of the region commercially appealing. Examples can be found in the opening of new sea-lanes, such as the Northwestern and Northeastern Passages,28  in addition to making the extraction of resources – specifically hydrocarbons such as oil and natural gas – from the Arctic seabed economically feasible.29

The 2008 U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic holds up to 22% of untapped global reserves of energy resources.30 The potential wealth of such untapped natural resources is drawing the Arctic from the periphery back into mainstream international politics as nations scramble to strengthen and consolidate their influence over the region. It is therefore fair to state that global climate change, along with significant technological innovations in extraction processes and infrastructure,31 is contributing to the transformation of the Arctic from a backwater to a key geographical entity, resulting in premonitions of the Arctic as the background for the “Great Game” of the 21st Century.32 The Arctic thaw has not simply unfrozen the former perennial ice shelves, but has also sparked new conflicts on top of established ones, thus compounding an environmental problem with acrimonious political disputes over resources. The lack of an applicable framework of international law has therefore made the Arctic a region in which it is possible to observe international anarchy in one of its purest and most striking forms, as states with divergent interests rush to establish their claims and plant a foothold in this contested area.

Extension of the Continental Shelf

Given the paucity of legal mechanisms with which to resolve and adjudicate disputes, the one legal instrument that is applicable to the Arctic, the aforementioned UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has become the generally accepted regulatory framework for the resolution of intraregional conflicts. This treaty is, of course, far from tailor-made for the region, and its effectiveness is thwarted by the U.S.’ refusal to ratify the convention.  One provision of the convention, specifically Article 76, has proven to be a popular tool amongst the Arctic nations seeking to establish their claims over the natural resources present in the seabed. This article establishes that countries seeking to expand their exclusive maritime economic zones beyond the nominal 200 miles have to demonstrate to a UN technical commission that the underlying seabed constitutes an extension of their continental shelf. This has led several countries to organize scientific expeditions aimed at determining the nature and composition of the Arctic’s continental shelves in the hope that results would buttress their claims in the region. The two clear frontrunners in this Arctic scramble are Canada and Russia, but the situation is still difficult to interpret and the outcome is far from certain.

Russia is, without a doubt, the nation that has most aggressively pursued and defended its interests in the Arctic. In 2001 it became the first nation to submit a petition to the UN for the extension of its continental shelf. The request is still undergoing review from the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which is not an international court, but rather a body of technical experts tasked with arbitrating one of the most politically contentious issues in the field of modern international law. The commission initially stalled, asking Russia to provide additional evidence to support its claim. This enabled Russia to make headlines in 2007 by planting a steel flag on the seabed below the North Pole as part of a scientific fact-finding expedition, triggering protests from Canadian officials.33 Though the issue is still pending a final decision, it is evident that if the Russian claims were to be accepted, there would be a profound impact not just on Arctic politics, but also on global energy equilibriums. Expanded Russian energy resources progressively would decrease the influence and power of the OPEC cartel,34 and thus augment Russia’s position in the market. Moscow would then become the key player in the energy industry, thereby enhancing its global status. This is part of Russia’s strategy for the Arctic, published in 2008, stressing the paramount importance of the region in the effort to safeguard its long-run national interests.35

As one might expect, Russian ambitions are not without contest. Canada also has sent several expeditions – some in collaboration with Denmark and the U.S.A.36 – to the Arctic Circle over the last five years in the hope of establishing a claim over the underwater polar shelves. Canada is expected to submit its claim for extension of its continental shelf by 2013, as the Convention gives member nations a ten-year window from the moment of ratification to send their claims to the Commission, and Canada’s entry into the Convention took effect in 2003. Furthermore, the Harper government has reinforced the military presence in the ‘High North’ by employing new patrol vessels as well as inaugurating two training and logistics bases in an effort to better protect Canadian interests.37

NATO has proposed itself as the natural forum for the resolution of controversies involving the Arctic – four of the Arctic powers are NATO member states and a permanent dialogue with Russia was established in 2002 with the NATO-Russia Council – having defined the region as a political and security priority. The alliance is also increasing its military activities in the region, leading to heightened militarization. For example, NATO military exercises, with the contribution of Great Britain, Denmark, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, France, Sweden and the U.S. took place from the 12th to the 21st of March 2012.38 According to official reports, the focus is on practicing actions combining diplomatic overtures with military responses in relation to possible scenarios carrying a high risk for potential conflict. Such a flurry of activity being undertaken by NATO is not a coincidence, appearing to be in response to Russia’s increasing presence in the region. The Russian government recently authorized the construction of new warships developed for the Arctic theater, constituting the first steps in the overhaul of its aging Northern Fleet.39

What about the U.S.A.?

The United States, through Alaska, has a substantial stake in the region and, theoretically, should join the forefront of the Arctic struggle. However, efforts to establish extended claims on seabed resources have been checked by the United States Senate’s continued failure to ratify the Convention on the Law of the Sea, rendering it impossible to establish a claim over the extended continental shelf. Skeptical U.S. policymakers tend to assume that customary international law, adequately supported by the most powerful navy in the world, sufficiently safeguard significant U.S. interests in the region.40 It is evident, however, that such a unilateral approach is no longer tenable, as the Arctic has gone from being a purely geostrategic region during the Cold War to becoming a zone of ever-increasing commercial interest.

The orderly development of economic activity requires some form of regulatory framework, with the only one available at the moment being the aforementioned UN convention. The refusal to ratify it implies the continued undermining of U.S. interests, with the nation potentially falling behind in what may become the gold rush of the 21st century.41 Partisan politics as well as fears of a potential loss of sovereignty make it unlikely that the United States Senate will ratify the treaty in the short term, leading to a continued decline of U.S. influence in the Arctic. For this reason, analysts have proposed that the United States reach some sort of entente with Canada in the hope that such a duopoly would emerge as the dominant force in the region, facilitating the creation of a clear legal framework for commercial navigation and resource extraction.42Regardless of the ultimate strategy, it is evident that the current U.S. course is no longer viable. Inaction has sidelined America in a crucial struggle for influence that will determine the fate and ownership of vast and previously untapped Arctic energy reserves.

Conflict vs. Cooperation

The political situation in the Arctic is at once nebulous and complex, with international law appearing to be little more than an instrument that nations use to justify their claims rather than a tool to resolve new and longstanding disagreements. Even though all parties agreed in 2008 to abide by and use international law as a regulatory framework through which to resolve their disputes in the Arctic,43 they simultaneously appear to be hedging against possible adverse scenarios by strengthening their military presence in the area. For example, Canada is building a fleet of armed icebreakers, while Russia has recently resumed strategic bomber patrols over the region.44 At the moment it is unclear whether issues pending in the Arctic can be settled via international arbitration, or by improving existing legal instruments with a dimension of political cooperation.45 Such an outcome appears plausible as long as Canadian and Russian claims do not overlap, so that a settlement could be reached through the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

Conversely, issues in the Arctic may evolve into a reflection of the developing political and military balance in the region, evading mediated resolution and resulting in conflict and unilateral actions. In such a case, the commission would be powerless to intervene as it does not have the authority to adjudicate disputes. Ultimately, one can observe that the situation is fast approaching a critical juncture. Without regard to the conclusions of the UN’s technical commission, the Arctic powers soon must decide whether to cooperate in joint administration of the region, or to engage in a struggle for supremacy. Given the approaching submission deadline for Canada, the window for a mediated solution may not remain open past 2013.


The Arctic has experienced rapid and drastic change as a consequence of rising temperatures. Therefore, international cooperation would be advantageous to achieving a lasting solution to the climatic, social and political issues facing this delicate region. Unfortunately, the potential for reaching multilateral arrangements is fragile, and the political will for achieving them could easily fall second to the prospect of obtaining access to valuable resource deposits. Climate change in this region has engendered a series of unpredicted spillover effects in the political realm by acting as a conflict catalyst. Specifically, climate change has aided the creation of physical conditions that facilitate international conflict, while simultaneously reducing the incentives for cooperation, thus exacerbating disputes that will determine future power balances, especially those concerning energy markets, which are already enveloped in a tumultuous political situation presently affecting both countries that produce and those that consume natural resources.

The Arctic provides an example of how climate change can shift geopolitical attention as well as amplify the strategic importance of geographic areas, perhaps causing old rivalries to resurface as in the case of Russia and NATO member countries. A non-traditional phenomenon is indeed leading to the emergence of traditional security dilemmas in the form of competition for resources and territory, resulting in the development of tensions among states. Climate change in the Arctic is literally defrosting regional security conundrums that risk extending well beyond the region. Moreover, not only is the physical environment being modified, but legal and institutional environments are changing as well, posing new challenges to inter-state relations and the ability to manage the unclaimed parts of the Arctic, referred to as the commons.46

Climate change can only be tackled with long-term emissions mitigation policies, while the emergence of the security dilemma in the region requires short-term solutions to avoid further militarization of the Arctic. The need to act rapidly is particularly urgent since the situation is developing within a precarious institutional, legal, and political framework. Though skepticism concerning the veracity of climate change continues to abound in public opinion and political arenas, recent developments in the Arctic demonstrate how such changes already are adversely affecting international politics. Future developments are no longer limited to scientific discourse, but now extend to conflict prevention. As noted by Machiavelli, once foreseen, such issues must be addressed before they develop to the point that no satisfactory remedy can be found.

Notes & References

  1. Nicolò Macchiavelli, The Prince (London: Dent, 1958), translated by W. K. Marriott, p. 19.
  2. For instance, the Helsinki Final Act (1975) divided the activities of the OSCE (at that time the CSCE) into three baskets. The second included the Economic and Environmental Dimension, dealing with issues such as economic development, science, technology, and environmental protection in their relation to international security.
  3. North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Active Engagement, Modern Defense, Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, text adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon, November 19, 2010, accessed March 13, 2012, nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_publications/20120214_strategic-concept-2010-eng.pdf.
  4. Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change , Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, and New York, NY) .
  5. Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, Contribution of Working Group.
  6. For example, at the G8 conference in 2005, British Prime Minister Tony Blair referred to climate change as “Probably long term, the single most important issue we face as a global community.”
  7. The definition of climate change as a threat multiplier officially has been adopted by the European Union, the United Nations, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
  8. International Organization for Migration, “Migration, Climate Change and the Environment. A Complex Nexus,” accessed February 9, 2012, Infosheet_final.pdf.
  9. Ban Ki Moon, “A Climate Culprit in Darfur,” The Washington Post, June 16, 2007, accessed February 10, 2012.
  10. United Nations Environment Programme, Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment, June 2007, 7 et seq.,
  11. Marchall B. Burke et. Al, “Warming increases the risk of civil war in Africa,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America 106, no. 49 (2009): 20670-20674.
  12. Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change, Contribution of Working Group.
  13. North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Active Engagement.
  14. Oli Brown, “The Environment and our Security. How our Understanding of the Links has Changed,” a contribution to the International Conference on Environment, Peace, and Dialogue among Civilizations held in Tehran, May 9-15, 2005.
  15. Paul Smith, “Climate Change, Mass Migration, and the Military Response,” Orbis 51, no. 4 (2007): 617-633, and Hugo Graeme, “Environmental Concerns and International Migration,” International Migration Review 30, no. 1 (1996): 105.
  16. The definition of climate change as a stress multiplier was given by UK Environment Secretary David Miliband in 2009. An earlier version can be found in F. W. Steinmeier and D. Miliband, “Addressing the Emerging Challenges of Climate change,” 2008, accessed February 9, 2012, http://www.atlantic–community .org /index/articles/view/Addressing_the_Emerging_Challenges_ of_Climate_Change.
  17. Christopher Hill and Michael Smith (Eds.), International Relations and the European Union, 2nd edition, (Oxford University Press, 2011), 350.
  18. European Environmental Bureau, EU Environmental Policy Handbook: A Critical Analysis of EU Environmental Legislation, accessed March 13 2012,
  19. National Resources Defense Council, “Global Warming Puts the Arctic on Thin Ice,” November 22,2005, accessed December 12, 2011,
  20. Scott Borgerson, “Arctic Meltdown: the Economic and Security Implications of Global Warming,” Foreign Affairs 87, no. 2 (2008): 66.
  21. Torben Christensen, “Methane emission from Arctic tundra,” Biogeochemistry 64, no. 3 (1993): 117-139.
  22. Wei-en Tan and Yu-tai Tsai, “Conflict Resolution and the International Scramble for Natural Resources in the Arctic,” Journal of Politics and Law 64, no. 1 (2010): 93-94.
  23. Scott Borgerson, “Arctic Meltdown,” 66.
  24. Barry S. Zellen, Arctic doom, Arctic boom: the geopolitics of climate change in the Arctic (California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2009), 3-4.
  25. Robert Huebert, “Canada and the Changing International Arctic: At the Crossroads of Cooperation and Conflict,” Northern Exposure: Peoples, Powers and Prospects in Canada’s North, ed. Frances Abele, et al. (Canada: The Institute for Research on Public Policy, 2009), 77-80.
  26. “Canada island visit angers Danes”, BBC News, July 25, 2005, accessed December 19, 2011,
  27. Kenneth Yalowitz, James Collins, Virginia Ross, “The Arctic Climate Change and Security Policy Conference: Final Reports and Findings,” paper presented at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace conference on Arctic Climate Change and Security Policy, December 1-3, 2008, accessed December 22, 2011,
  28. The first complete opening of the Northwest Passage occurred in summer 2008, enabling a shipping connection between the West and Asia to bypass the Suez Canal route.
  29. 90 Billion Barrels of Oil and 1,670 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas Assessed in the Arctic, report prepared by the United States Geological Survey, July 23, 2008, accessed December 4, 2011,
  30. 90 Billion Barrels of Oil and 1,670 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas Assessed in the Arctic. The 2008 press statement in particular points out that “these resources account for about 22 percent of the undiscovered, technically recoverable resources in the world. The Arctic accounts for about 13 percent of the undiscovered oil, 30 percent of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20 percent of the undiscovered natural gas liquids in the world.”
  31. Richard Galpin, “The struggle for Arctic riches,” BBC News, September 22, 2010, accessed December 17, 2011, Russia in particular is developing a new class of nuclear-powered drilling platforms designed specifically for the Arctic waters, and scheduled to enter service in 2012. A Russian Arctic pipeline is also in development, with completion expected by 2017.
  32. Scott Borgerson, “The Great Game Moves North: As the Arctic Melts, Countries Vie for Control,” Foreign Affairs, March 25, 2009, accessed December 17, 2011,
  33. Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay stated, “This isn't the 15th century. You can't go around the world and just plant flags and say 'we're claiming this territory.” See “Russia Plants Flag Under N Pole”, BBC News, August 2, 2007, accessed December 15, 2011,
  34. Clifford Krauss, et al., “As Polar Ice Turns to Water, Dreams of Treasure Abound,” The New York Times, October 10, 2005, A1.
  35. Security Council of the Russian Federation, Osnovy gosudarstvennoi politiki Rossiiskoi Federatsii v Arktike na period do 2020 goda i dalneishuiu perspektivu, September 18, 2008,
  36. MacDougall, et al, “Ice and No Ice: the Canadian UNCLOS Bathymetric Mapping Programme,” Canadian Hydrographic Association, May 6, 2008, accessed December 13, 2011, 2008conference/session_2A/2A-4_MacDougall_et_al.pdf.
  37. Robert Huebert, “Canada and the Changing International Arctic,” 1.
  38. Nato Watch, “NATO Exercise ‘Cold Response 2012’: A Crisis Response Operation or a Provocation to Russia?” March 5, 2012, accessed March 13, 2012,
  39. Kramnik Ilya, “NATO Tests its Forces in the Arctic,” The Voice of Russia, February 9, 2012, accessed February 10, 2012,
  40. Scott Borgerson, “Arctic Meltdown,” 75.
  41. Paul Reynolds, “The Arctic's new gold rush”, BBC News, October 25, 2005, accessed December 12, 2011,
  42. Scott Borgerson, “Arctic Meltdown,” 75-76.
  43. Richard Sale and Eugene Potapov, The Scramble for the Arctic: Ownership, Exploitation and Conflict in the Far North (London: Frances Lincoln, 2010), 195-196.
  44. Scott Borgerson, “Arctic Meltdown,” 75-76.
  45. Linda Nowlan, “Arctic Legal Regime for Environmental Protection,” International Union for Conservation of Nature Environmental and Law Paper, no. 44 (2001): 15-16.
  46. The unclaimed parts of the Arctic seabed were declared to be a “common heritage of mankind” by the UNCLOS.
Chiara Rogate is an M.A. candidate at The Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS Bologna Center. She graduated from the University of Bologna in 2008. After interning at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Cairo and at NATO in Brussels she worked as a researcher at Isttituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI), and at the Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM) in Milan, where she focused on climate change negotiations. Marco Ferrara is an M.A.I.A. candidate at The Johns Hopkins University’s SAIS Bologna Center. He graduated from the University of Bologna in 2011. For his undergraduate thesis he studied the evolution of international legal regimes within the Arctic, with a particular focus on the effect of such regimes on the recent warming trends taking place in the region.