War over the Arctic? Global warming skeptics distract us from security risks.
Global warming skeptics must recognize that real -- not predicted -- climate change is already turning the Arctic into a potential military flash point.
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The US and other Arctic nations are meeting this month to discuss Arctic sovereignty. Previous summits have included agreements to act responsibly and peacefully as the polar icecap recedes, but nearly all nations involved are rearming militarily to defend their sovereignty. “We are already in an Arctic arms race,” Huebert says. “The year 2010 in the Arctic is akin to 1935 in Europe.” Russia is building military bases on the Arctic coast and has 10,000 troops deployed near its northern border to assert its expanding claims.Skip to next paragraph
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Norway has in recent years bought five new supermodern Navy frigates with advanced Aegis weapons systems to defend its undersea claims. Denmark is also increasing military spending to support its polar position.
Because of the vagueness of undersea borders, the US and Canada are also arguing about overlapping sovereignty claims with hundreds of billions in petro profits hanging in the balance. China has no polar border, yet it is building an advanced icebreaker to promote “scientific “and “commercial’ pursuits both in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
Former US Sen. Gary Hart is worried that the Arctic could become the new Fulda Gap, the cold-war fulcrum of potential battle in Germany, where the West feared Soviet divisions would pour into Western Europe. “We don’t need to start another cold war,” Mr. Hart said, “but we do need to determine Russia’s intent.”
As the Arctic thaws and the Northwest Passage becomes a navigable strait for shipping, there could be seismic consequences. Under international law, the term “strait” also affords flyover rights to other countries. When the Northwest Passage becomes a regularly navigable strait, Russia could legally and perhaps provocatively send its warplanes into North American airspace, something it never would have done in the cold war. Canadian political experts claim the Russians are already becoming more assertive, bordering on aggressive. “If that’s the case, the Russians need to be stopped now,” Huebert said.
“Most Americans have no clue the United States is an Arctic nation,” said US Coast Guard Rear Adm. Gene Brooks. Such ignorance carries a heavy price. Yet broader public ignorance about climate change is the goal of some skeptics and deniers. It wasn’t that long ago when cigarette manufacturers told Congress that nicotine wasn’t addictive, or when Detroit’s auto moguls insisted that seat belts were a bad idea. Responsible dissent is one thing. But defiance of facts on the ground that imperil US national and energy security is quite another. Says Brooks: “The age of the Arctic is upon us.”