Arctic ringed by navigable water; rush to exploit it may spur new int’l law
For the first time in recorded history, the world’s cap of Arctic sea ice is surrounded by a ring of theoretically navigable water. It’s a phenomenon sure to pique the interest of Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the U.S., which all have Arctic territories and are maneuvering to claim as much of the region as possible. A recent example: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who just called an election in his country, recently pledged to mandate that all large ships navigating the Northwest Passage report to the Canadian coast guard. That doesn’t sit well with other countries, which say the passage is international and should allow for free sailing. As climate change continues to make the Arctic region more accessible, says A.H. Zakri of the U.N. University, “Many experts believe this new rush to the polar regions is not manageable within existing international law.” Foreseeing more bickering over shipping, mining, fishing, and fossil-fuel exploration, legal experts advise brand-new, polar-specific U.N. laws.