Many eyes are turning north to the Arctic, some in horror at the rapid decline of a key component of our life support system, others in eager anticipation at the untapped resources beneath the vanishing snow and ice.
With climate change rapidly opening up new opportunities for shipping and resource extraction across the once permanently frozen Arctic, the United States and other northern countries are being compelled to re-examine their policies, both national and collective, towards this region of growing geostrategic importance.
Environmentalists are warning that a meeting of environment ministers that took place Monday in Sweden has agreed on a weak and inadequate response plan in case of an oil spill in the Arctic Ocean.
The planet can be cooled a whopping 0.5 degrees C with fast action to reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants, gas fracking, diesel trucks and biomass burning, recent studies show.
By mid-September, the Royal Dutch Shell Oil (Shell) group hopes to begin exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of northern Alaska, provided it can secure federal permission from the U.S. government and overcome other logistical obstacles. But a prominent environmental group warns that drilling will do "irreparable damage" to the area.
Many environmental groups are concerned over a possible extension of drilling expeditions in the Arctic, as oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, are set to begin drilling in the region as early as this week.