Do not turn the Arctic into a battle zone

Do not turn the Arctic into a battle zone

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As the climate warms, ice sheets get detached from the Arctic.
As the climate warms, ice sheets get detached from the Arctic.
Photo: Alicia Klassen and Beatrice Yeung
The Arctic is the cornerstone of the global ecosystem. It's the messenger of global processes and the barometer of the health of our planet. Global climate change and widespread environmental degradation, however, means that the Arctic is changing and the environment is at risk.

Sadly, as our societies are driven by greed and competition, we let economic gain override concerns over environmental destruction.

Climate change, along with escalating Arctic exploitation, is posing grave threats to the Arctic, undermining its critical importance to the health of the planet and to sustainable development.

Sea ice sheets in the Arctic and in Greenland have been shrinking to new lows this year. A spring snow pack in the Arctic was recently reported to be disappearing rapidly. The ecological consequences of such a drastic change in the Arctic environment will be dire. Meanwhile, melting ice caps and retreating sea ice are opening the Arctic up to new economic opportunities and exploitation. Several nations are rushing to capitalise on newly available land resources in the area. Canada, the United States and several European nations are setting their sights on this pristine land. Other countries, including China, are likely to join the scramble for the Arctic soon. And so a once-untouched area has become a battlefield as nations vie for access to its rich oil, gas, and mineral resources.

That is bad news. The Arctic is an essential part of the global climate, but it now doubles as a final frontier of development. Its role as a regulator of weather patterns worldwide is being undermined even as it is becoming open to exploitation.

It is our responsibility to ensure that we do not lay waste to the precious resources of this vital region. We need to work on sustainable development not only in the Arctic but also worldwide.

That's the only way we can stop our planet's health spiralling out of control before it is too late.

The Arctic should not be a playground for economic rivalry.

Beatrice will be attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, where she will lead a youth delegation.

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