Rather than saving the Arctic from climate change, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that the melting polar region should be seen as an opening for the northern hemisphere.
Pompeo's comments came during a speech to a meeting of the Arctic Council, a group of seven countries—Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the U.S.—with interests and claims in the region.
"Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade," said Pompeo. "This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days."
Reporting in The Washington Post said that Arctic Council members were "stunned" by Pompeo's remarks and the U.S. position, especially coming on the same day as a U.N. report warning of the extinction of 1 million species due to human activity and within months of a NOAA report showing that 95 percent of the region's thickest ice is gone.
The council member countries had hoped to pass a resolution calling for addressing climate change—but the U.S. killed the statement's references to the phrase.
Per the Post's PowerPost:
Pompeo suggested the Arctic Council look beyond "environmental research into events that may or may not occur in 100 years," his closest reference to the phrase "climate change."
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In remarks justifying continued exploitation in the region, Pompeo extolled the virtues of potential exploitation of Arctic natural resources, listing off the untouched natural treasures that climate change is making more easily accessible to humans.
"The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance," said Pompeo. "It houses 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore."
Earlier in the speech, as Common Dreams reported Monday, Pompeo took aim at Russia and China, attacking the two American adversaries for perceived "lawlessness."
The convenience for shipping and trade that Pompeo celebrated, as environmental advocates have pointed out, is because of a bleak climate reality.
The Arctic is melting rapidly. Ice and glaciers are at record low levels in the North Pole, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Activist Bill McKibben, in April, expressed his concern for the polar region in a piece for Common Dreams.
"To invent a word, the north is rapidly slushifying, with more rainfall and fewer days of hard freeze," wrote McKibben. "The latest data shows that after a month of record temperatures in the Bering Sea, ocean ice in the Arctic is at an all-time record low for the date, crushing the record set … last April."