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Climate Change Clears the Way for the Extraction of Arctic Resources

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Canada and Russia are investing in military infrastructure in order to protect economic interests in Arctic energy resources.


JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

As global temperatures rise, the Arctic is melting and opening up new shipping routes and previously inaccessible natural resources. On Monday, December 9, the Canadian foreign minister, John Baird, held a press conference reaffirming Canada’s recent claim to Arctic resources to the UN, which include the North Pole. Meanwhile, the following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he would beef up Russian defense forces in the same region and further develop Russian infrastructure there.

Now joining us to discuss this is Yves Engler, Canadian commentator and author. His most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.

Thank you so much for being with us.


NOOR: So what exactly is at stake here with Canada making this claim? And why should people be concerned about this?

ENGLER: Well, I think what’s at stake is, with climate change, resources that were previously inaccessible becoming accessible. Thirty percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil is thought to be in the Arctic. Obviously there’s also shipping lanes and the ability to potentially put tolls on those that are at play.

I think that as much as the tangible economic interests, just from the Conservative government’s perspective this is about nationalism and playing to a certain sentiment among the Canadian public—and as one minister said, this is last lines of Canada—has, you know, sort of very kind of colonial type language being used to try to sort of generate nationalist sentiments. I think that’s taking place on the Canadian side, and probably also on the Russian side.

And I think that the main issue that we need to be concerned about is, first of all, the fact that the ice is melting. That’s by far the most important issue here is that this is a sign of really big trouble for humanity’s ability to survive on this planet in terms of climate disturbances, and also the fact that, you know, the first step after that is how can we extract even more of these energy sources that are causing these climate disturbances and causing this ice to melt. So this is just another example of the irrationality of our current day and of corporate forces in terms of the big question of climate disturbances.

NOOR: And I hope the irony isn’t lost to these global leaders that are spearheading this, because they’re literally using climate change and global warming to increase natural resource consumption. So it’s just baffling in a lot of ways.

But to that last point you made about who’s going to end up extracting these resources, it’s going to be big corporations either way, whether it’s Russia’s Gazprom or Shell Oil or another corporation. So at the end of the day, this is only going to get worse, essentially, is what you’re arguing.

ENGLER: Yeah, well, I’d say it’s probably—is likely to get worse. It’s likely that either Russia or Canada, it’s going to be major corporations that are going to have access to this, and it’s going to have limited benefit to the majority of people who directly are going to benefit and also going to be the main victims by the climate disturbances.

I think that this is—it’s important to note how this plays with the Conservative government and their politics. They’ve repeatedly gone out of their way to stoke conflict with Russia. In 2009, when Obama came to visit Ottawa, the Conservative government claimed that a Russian fighter jet had almost entered Canadian airspace in the Arctic, as if this had something to do with Obama’s visit to Ottawa, which is probably about six or seven thousand kilometers away from where the Russian fighter jet was in the Arctic.

But to stake Canada’s claim to the north and to do so at the expense of Russia rather than to, you know, sort of—more sort of negotiating manner, it plays well to a sort of Cold War kind of sentiment in this country. It plays well to a militaristic sentiment. It justifies things like the F-35 fighter jet and buying more fighter jets that the current government is supportive of. And it’s all being done under the guise that, you know, we should have access to these natural resources, when in fact the best thing, for humanity’s perspective, is that no one has access to these natural resources, that the Arctic is never accessible to be drilling for oil or natural gas in the Arctic, because, you know, the ice sheet continues, it doesn’t melt, and water levels don’t increase, and humanity is spared the worst consequences of climate change. But instead what we have going on here is a combination of sort of nationalistic policies all tied to a potential corporate bottom line policy with regards to actually taking those resources out in upcoming years or upcoming decades.

NOOR: Yves Engler, thank you so much for joining us.

ENGLER: Thanks for having me.

NOOR: You can follow us on Twitter @therealnews, Tweet me questions, story ideas @jaisalnoor.

Thanks so much for joining us.

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