There is something of the ironic here. At the same time as scientists are meeting in Paris to put their final touches to the latest IPCC a report (which is warning over accelerated warming and melting), experts are meeting in Norway to discuss the future of the Arctic – one of its biggest threats is oil exploration.
It is also ironic that burning oil and gas is causing climate change which is causing unprecedented melting of Arctic ice. This in turn is freeing up more ice-free seas which is good news for oil and gas exploration in the region.
The oil industry has long looked to the frozen North for its future, but ice has often barred its way. But not anymore. The Arctic region contains a quarter of the world’s remaining oil reserves, experts estimate. It also contains massive natural gas fields in the Barents Sea, including Russia’s huge Shtokman field. “By 2040 or 2050, the Arctic Ocean will be navigable and that will mean significant developments very soon,” warns ArcticNet research group head Martin Fortier.
But European Environment Agency head Jacqueline McGlade warned that the region’s opening could lead to a “Klondike gold rush”, which “could potentially destabilize” the area and its 10 million indigenous inhabitants.