Global warming is affecting the Arctic disproportionately more severely than any other geographical part of the world. Also, global warming is the result of the fossil fuel-based economy in the industrialized countries and of the “Great Acceleration” of industrial development since the 1960s, especially in the emerging economies.
Global Arctic. An Introduction to the Multifaceted Dynamics of the Arctic, Springer, 2022.
As a result of global warming, the Arctic’s mineral and energy resources have become increasingly accessible for exploration and exploitation. Furthermore, this process is facilitated because of more accessible maritime and land transport routes in the Arctic. On the maritime transport side, this increased accessibility of Arctic resources is facilitated because shipping through Arctic waters leads to significant competitive trade advantages. However, the exploitation of Arctic minerals and energy resources would not have taken place without the planet’s hunger for these very resources; that is, because of the pressure from the industrialized and emerging economies. The population in the Arctic and not even the Arctic countries would not need to exploit all these resources. What happens in the Arctic, at least in economic terms, is mostly the result of a “resource curse”, a development that is similar to what happens in other resources-rich countries in the world, such as Saudi Arabia.
In this sense, the GlobalArctic simply means some form of “resource colonization”, albeit on a much more massive scale than in the early twentieth century. Because of this massive scale, the exploitation of the Arctic’s resources is accompanied by equally massive infrastructure developments in the form of roads, ports, railways, airports, and entire cities (such as mining towns and drilling platforms). Such infrastructure developments add still other dimensions to the GlobalArctic: not only does it make the transformation of the Arctic much more permanent, it also has cultural consequences, as the Arctic’s indigenous peoples are increasingly also becoming minorities; this is something that goes far beyond simple colonization. In other words, the Arctic is now global.
Andrey Krivorotov, in his chapter entitled “The quest for the ultimate resources: oil, gas, and coal” (Chap. 13), shows how the Arctic’s fossil fuel potential attracts governments and investors with its political stability, short distances to key markets and good geological prospects. Arctic exploration and development is also of major political importance as a tool to ensure national energy security, establish a visible presence in the area, and give strong impetus to regional economies. However, there are also many challenges, like harsh natural conditions, insufficient or lacking technologies and infrastructure, and higher environmental risks. The political and industrial interest for the area has varied greatly over time, reflecting both long-term trends and current international developments. While Arctic coal production peaked in the twentieth century, the oil and gas industry has witnessed two periods of high activity, from the 1960s to the mid-1980s and in the last two decades. Krivorotov’s country-by-country analysis shows that despite numerous optimistic statements, few actual Arctic projects have been implemented or have realistic chances to be, and all of them have been concentrated offshore Norway, onshore Russia, and in Alaska. Future industrial development will likely be very heterogeneous, unfolding under a strong environmentally motivated pressure, a broad variety of actors and national policy approaches, with a strong emphasis on innovative and sustainable technological solutions. The ongoing low-carbon transition will affect such development heavily in the longer run.
The policies pursued by Arctic nations vary widely depending largely on two key factors: the importance of petroleum industry for the national economy and the country’s interpretation of climate policy goals. Norway and Russia have demonstrated a strong political will to continue largescale Arctic exploration and production. In the US, Alaskan oil and gas development has evolved into a complicated domestic policy issue, with clear division lines between the two parties. This is negative for the industry, given its lengthy investment cycles and need for a long-term regulatory stability. Canadians remain predominantly negative to Arctic oil and gas, while Denmark/Greenland and Iceland suffer from discouraging exploration results. Summing up, the circumpolar petroleum development is likely to be increasingly heterogeneous, with multifaceted investment regimes, stringent sustainability requirements, a stronger emphasis on technological and managerial innovations, a growing involvement of non-regional actors and continued environmental debates. The new actors may make the industry more robust by contributing with their unique technologies, know-how, and marketing channels, Andrey Krivorotov said.
/Global Arctic. An Introduction to the Multifaceted Dynamics of the Arctic, Springer, 2022/