Conclusions: coming in from the cold
The Arctic is coming in from the cold, both literally and metaphorically, with climate change bringing both great change and great interest to a place previously very much on the margins of international relations. Whilst the region experiences global warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world to the south, it is experiencing the social and political implications of this at an even greater rate. For the High North, globalization is coming late but quickly. Rapid environmental change is radically transforming the landscape and the lifestyles of its human and non-human inhabitants. It is also bringing much more of the world below the Arctic Circle to the High North in a rapid economic, social and political encroachment into this once largely ignored wilderness. Although the Arctic lands have long been carved up between the sovereign powers, many of the people who inhabit them have, nevertheless, been left largely to their own devices. The prospect of easier access to resources thought previously to be inaccessible has reawakened interest in the region from the sovereign powers and from other powers outside of the region. However, the ‘new Cold War’ scenarios of the Arctic coming to be
despoiled in a new oil rush, widely predicted at the time of the Russian robotic North Pole landing in 2007, seem, just ﬁve years later, to be absurd and hysterical. The prospect of new oil and gas supplies becoming available allied to classic Western assumptions about Russian foreign policy prompted geopolitics traditionalists to assume the worst and dust down their Cold War lexicons. Such pessimism, whilst supported by much historical precedent, demonstrably is misplaced in observing the emerging international politics of the Arctic, characterized by intergovernmental cooperation and an inclusive discourse in which local and expert non-governmental organization (NGO) voices are prominent. Indeed, a peaceful Arctic should not come as a surprise given, as Byers observes, that we are talking about:
a vast, sparsely populated region with only a handful of nation-states; only a few, relatively minor boundary disputes; and a pre-existing framework of universally accepted international rules, centrally including the law of the sea. If humanity cannot cooperate in the Arctic, it cannot cooperate anywhere.