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19Sep 2012

An Issue to Watch: Arctic Riches Exposed as Ice Melts

Faye Flam
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Greenland's town of Nuuk, credit: New York Times

New York Times reporter Elizabeth Rosenthal wrote this fascinating enterprise piece on the worldwide grab for the oil, gas and minerals exposed by melting arctic ice. Yes, climate change will make accessible more fossil fuel so we can burn even more of it in the future. And some rich people stand to get a lot richer off the consequences of climate change.

There is also a potential payoff for the Inuit – the native people who survived while the Greenland Vikings perished and now make up the majority of Greenland’s population:

In the past 18 months, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea have made debut visits here, and Greenland’s prime minister, Kuupik Kleist, was welcomed by President José Manuel Barroso of the European Commission in Brussels.

“We are treated so differently than just a few years ago,” said Jens B. Frederiksen, Greenland’s vice premier, in his simple office here. “We are aware that is because we now have something to offer, not because they’ve suddenly discovered that Inuit are nice people.”

The story, reported from Nuuk, is heavy on policy. There’s more to be written about the science and the longer-term implications. Who in the US stands to benefit from Arctic riches? Is there any connection to the powerful entities funding the climate change denial movement? What’s going on with the Inuit and what’s at stake for these people? This is an issue to watch.

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