The earth's Arctic will be free of ice in late summers as early as 2030, affecting resource development, trade, tourism, national security, and the environment, according to a recent US Congressional Service report.
The five Arctic coastal states – the US, Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway – are in the process of preparing their official territorial claims to the region.
The stakes are high as governments are set to gain easier access to tens of billions of dollars of oil, gas and mineral wealth.
For a country like Canada, the melting is big news and potentially big business. Arctic territory accounts for 40 percent of total Canadian land mass and Arctic coastline comprises almost 3/4 of the total 243,000 km Canadian shoreline.
The melted ice would also open up transport through the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, drastically reducing the length of certain trade routes.
Much more troubling, however, are the potential environmental effects of the melting. Certain animal populations and vegetation would become increasingly at risk and Arctic warming is likely to lead to extreme weather patterns in other latitudinal areas.
Sources: Congressional Research Service; Ryan McDermott of Fierce Government; Diplomat Online