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June 23, 2013

Melting ice and the growing need for global collaboration



The implications of speeding global change — and the interdependence of causes and effects — are perhaps no more evident today than in the Arctic region.

Within the pages of this site, I seek to investigate the emerging role of the Chief Global Officer — not only as means to help understand the converging global world, but also as a framework to shed light on critical new skills needed to assimilate global change, guide enlightened thinking, and promote intelligent decision-making.

I recently attended a briefing entitled “The Opening of the Arctic — Challenges and Opportunities.”   And while the speaker, Gary Roughead of the Hoover Institution and former chief of naval operations, focused on the national security implications, I was struck by the myriad global impacts of melting ice and the need for global cooperation in the Arctic region.

The Chief Global Officer might consider the following mix in the Arctic region right now:

1.  Environmental impacts — the Arctic is one of the most sensitive environments in the world.  The past year was the least iced period in recorded history, and also the stormiest.  Melting permafrost causes methane gas to be released.

2.  Human impact — The Arctic is home to some 4 million people and the indigenous populations are especially susceptible to climate change in the region.  Migration as a result of climate change and the influx of new populations coming to exploit natural resources are bound to have major impacts.  Infectious diseases brought by warming temperatures and insects will likely have international consequences.

3.  Emerging competition for resources  — beyond merely oil and gas, the Arctic is rich in zinc, copper, and iron ore; China has begun to make investments in extraction in the Arctic region.

4.  Security and the opening of new seaways — beyond military security, there is also food security; changing climate impacts fisheries and water supply.  The opening of the Arctic may not alter global shipping routes entirely, but new access is bound to have implications for global trade, as well as consequences in terms of heavier traffic and more pollution.

4.  Global Governance — challenges and opportunities — The eight-member Arctic Council (including Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, and the United States) is a model for global cooperation in the 21sth Century.  And the United States is next up in the rotation to become chair of the Arctic Council in 2015 (a position currently held by Canada).  Yet, the U.S. may find itself leading from behind.  Budget cuts in an era of sequestration prevent critical investments in U.S. infrastructure and hamper capabilities; the U.S. has but one heavy icebreaker (compared to Russia’s 43, Sweden’s 9, Finland’s 9, and Canada’s 13).

Chinese Arctic Map by Hao Xiaoguang —

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