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This week, the United Nations’ Environment Programme released a new report warning that a rush for Arctic resources would threaten an already fragile ecosystem. As Arctic ice melts at a rate never seen before, many are concerned by the unfolding ecological catastrophe—but others are seeing dollar signs. Melting ice is making it easier for humans to extract minerals and fossil fuels from the Arctic—which, ironically, is the very activity that is causing the ice to melt. 

arctic sea ice, arctic ice, greenland, north pole, melting ice, global warmingPhoto via Shutterstock

In September, Arctic sea ice reached the lowest levels on record, and scientists have warned that if the trend continues Arctic ice could all but vanish in the next 20 years. Global warming, the result of manmade CO2 emissions, is to blame for the rapid loss of Arctic ice, but that knowledge hasn’t stopped industrialized nations from continuing to plunder the earth’s resources.

For some industries melting ice will create new opportunities. The loss of ice is opening up new shipping routes that were previously impassible; and similarly, it will make lands that were once covered in ice accessible for oil, gas and mineral mining. And scientists also expect fisheries to take their operations to the Arctic in search of fish that have migrated north.

But the urge to exploit the resources in the Arctic could come at a great environmental cost. “As the UNEP Year Book 2013 points out, the rush to exploit these vast untapped reserves have consequences that must be carefully thought through by countries everywhere, given the global impacts and issues at stake,” Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General, told The Guardian. The UN Environment Programme recommends that no step towards extracting resources from the Arctic be taken until a thorough environmental assessment can be conducted.

via The Guardian