New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag
Chapter 4: Rising temperatures, rising tensions: power politics and regime building in the Arctic
The Arctic ice disappears; international interest increases, and thus the Arctic is transformed from an international backwater of little concern to a region of global interest. In almost every conceivable manner, the Arctic is changing. The impacts of climate change and the resulting dramatic decrease of permanent multi-year ice receive the greatest attention, but the region has been changing in many other ways. The combination of climate change and globalization is fundamentally altering and possibly destroying the traditional lifestyle of the northern Indigenous peoples. Economic activity in the region is poised for dramatic expansion. As these changes occur, the international governance system is in a state of flux. The Arctic Council, the region's most important international body, has evolved from a minor regional organization into a highly prominent organization within the international system. These transformations are substantial, and as a result of them the Arctic has emerged as one of the most interesting and dynamic regions in the international system. Connected with all of these changes is the evolving Arctic security regime. However, understanding the geopolitical dynamics of the region is increasingly difficult given the growing complexity of the region. The Arctic moved from being one of the most important geopolitical strategic regions during the Cold War, to one of almost no military activity in the immediate post-Cold War period. Now security issues are critically important for the Arctic states and, increasingly, for outside players, including many Asian countries.
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