Implication of warming in Arctic region

Synopsis- Warming in the Arctic region has many implications and the geopolitics is also changing in the region. 


  • The Arctic has been warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, with higher temperatures pushing sea ice into a loop of melting and thinning. 
  • Since 1980, the amount of summer ice in cubic kilometers has decreased by an estimated 75 percent.  
  • Climate change is increasingly opening up the Northwest Passage, an Arctic sea route north of the Canadian mainland.

These developments will have a critical impact in several sectors, most fundamentally on climate. 

What are the adverse impacts of global warming? 

A warming climate holds important implications for other aspects of the global environment. 

  • First,  it had led to many changes on the planet, such as a rise in sea level, massive melting of snow and land ice, salinity levels, and current and precipitation patterns 
    • Moreover, The Tundra is returning to the swamp, the permafrost is thawing, sudden storms are ravaging coastlines and wildfires are devastating interior Canada and Russia. 
  • Second, Arctic biodiversity under serious threat from climate change- The distribution of flora and fauna is shifting northwards as the Arctic continues to warm.  
    • Increasing human encroachment with its attendant stresses will only aggravate this impact and upset a fragile balance.

What are the opportunities due to opening the Arctic region? 

The opening of the Arctic presents huge commercial and economic opportunities such as shipping, energy, fisheries, and mineral resources. 

  • First, new shipping route– The shrinking of ice on The Northern Sea Route will open new possibilities for shipping companies.
    • The distance from Rotterdam to Yokohama will be cut by 40 percent compared to the Suez route. 
  • SecondRaw materials underground– The area above the Arctic Circle is underlain by sedimentary basins and continental shelves that hold enormous oil and natural gas resources. 
    • The Arctic holds about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and natural gas resource base along with mineral deposits including 25 percent of the global reserves of rare earth, buried in Greenland.

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What are the challenges in doing so? 

  • First, Navigation conditions are restrictive and dangerous due to- 
    • extreme conditions: ice floes, fog, imprecise charts
    • Lack of search and rescue infrastructure and lack of deep-water ports.
  • Second, added cost of navigation in polar waters – 
    • more expensive shipbuilding and crew training requirements need for ice-breakers, high insurance costs
    • Mining and deep-sea drilling carry massive costs and environmental risks. 

These difficulties may provide a crucial window to work out norms that are focused on balanced and sustainable development. However, the Arctic is not a global common and there is no overarching treaty that governs it. 

What are the impacts of Arctic warming on India? 

The extensive coastline of India makes it most vulnerable to the impact of Arctic warming as- 

  • It is found that rising temperatures in the Arctic region is causing the sea-ice to melt faster than expected, impacting a major ocean current linked to extreme weather events. 
  • The global warming phenomena have resulted in a change in the monsoon onset time and pattern.

How Russia and china using Arctic geopolitics as a strategic posture? 

  • First, Russian priority is to ensure the Northern Fleet’s access to, and passage along, the Northern Sea Route (NSR) from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.  
  • Second, Russia has deployed substantive force and capabilities along its northern border, including through an exercise with China in the eastern Arctic. 
  • Third, China in the Arctic- China’s economic partnership with Russia in the Arctic with a focus on projecting the Polar Silk Road as an extension of the BRI, and has invested heavily in ports, energy, undersea infrastructure and mining projects.

Thus, an active China in the Arctic and its growing economic and strategic relationship with Russia need close monitoring. 

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