At the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Finland, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked with fellow leaders from the other seven nations that have territories in the Arctic: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden. While he mostly focused on warning against Russia and China’s growing presence in the Arctic, he also called the melting ice caps “new opportunities for trade,” according to the Observer.
“Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade,” Pompeo told other world leaders. “This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could come before—could come [sic] the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals.”
“And its centerpiece, the Arctic Ocean, is rapidly taking on new strategic significance,” he continued. “Offshore resources, which are helping the respective coastal states, are the subject of renewed competition.”
Just last week, the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s (NSIDC) monthly sea ice report found that “daily ice extent remained at record low levels throughout the month.” Global warming has caused 95 percent of the Arctic’s oldest ice to melt over the past 30 years, an environmental tragedy that scientists warn could become completely irreversible.Further ice loss could cause “ice-free summers” and fuel global warming even more.
“The steep decrease in Arctic sea ice is one of the more dramatic consequences of human-caused climate change,” said Penn State Earth System Science Center director Michael Mann. “And it comes with huge national security challenges as we are forced to defend a new coastline. So there are really multiple levels of unintended irony to Pompeo’s statements.”