The Arctic is warming far faster than the rest of the planet. Its permafrost, frozen year-round for thousands of years, is thawing. Sea ice is disappearing. Glaciers are melting, causing sea levels to rise globally.
The official US position on these changes? Great news for trade.
The same day a troubling UN report warned that incessant economic growth is driving all life on Earth toward unprecedented rates of extinction, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo told Arctic Council members in Finland that climate change in the region presents a magnificent economic opportunity.
“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new naval passageways and new opportunities for trade,” Pompeo said. New routes, where the nuisance of sea ice has conveniently disappeared, could “become the 21st century’s Suez and Panama canals.”
“We’re entering a new age of strategic engagement in the Arctic, complete with new threats to Arctic interests and its real estate,” he said, emphasizing that the US won’t stand for any “aggressive” moves by Russia or China.
The Arctic Council is an assembly of officials from the eight countries that have territory in the Arctic: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US. It seeks cooperation on common issues and customarily issues a joint declaration at the end of each meeting. Not this time: This year, the US refused to allow any mention of climate change in the document, so no declaration was issued.
Pompeo also defended the Trump administration’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement.
“Collective goals, even when well-intentioned, are not always the answer,” Pompeo said, according to the Associated Press. “They are rendered meaningless, even counterproductive, as soon as one nation fails to comply.”