Thawing Arctic opens new competition for northern territory, resources

The melting of the Arctic ice cap is bad news for polar bears, seals, some Arctic natives, and, oh yeah, possibly much of humankind — but great news for a few countries and companies looking to score bucks. The high stakes include lucrative new summer shipping lanes, easier access to an estimated one-quarter of the world’s yet-undiscovered gas and oil supplies, major new commercial fisheries, and more. Arctic Circle nations are assessing their territorial claims; both Canada and Denmark claim Hans Island, a two-mile-long knoll along the Northwest Passage, while Russia has tried to lay claim to about half of the Arctic Ocean, despite objections from the U.S. and others. As the big players vie to divide the spoils of global warming, some look on with dismay. “As long as it’s ice, nobody cares except us,” says Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit leader. “However, the minute it starts to thaw and becomes water, then the whole world is interested.”