To the world's military leaders, the debate over climate change is long over. They are preparing for a new kind of Cold War in the Arctic, anticipating that rising temperatures there will open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes, and a slew of potential conflicts. By Arctic standards, the region is already buzzing with military activity, and experts believe that will increase significantly in the years ahead. That doesn't mean a shooting war is likely at the North Pole anytime soon. But as the number of workers and ships increases in the High North to exploit oil and gas reserves, so will the need for policing, border patrols and—if push comes to shove—military muscle to enforce rival claims.
The US Geological Survey estimates that 13% of the world's undiscovered oil and 30% of its untapped natural gas is in the Arctic, and shipping lanes could be regularly open across the Arctic by 2030 as rising temperatures continue to melt the sea ice. Last month, Norway wrapped up one of the largest Arctic maneuvers ever, with 16,300 troops from 14 countries training on the ice for everything from high intensity warfare to terror threats. The US, Canada, and Denmark held major exercises two months ago, and in an unprecedented move, the military chiefs of the eight main Arctic powers—Canada, the US, Russia, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland—gathered at a Canadian military base last week to specifically discuss regional security issues. Click for more. (Read more Arctic stories.)