“Cold Front: Conflict Ahead in Arctic Waters”

A new book by David Fairhall: “The Arctic. Land of ice and the six-month day, irresistible goal for explorers and adventurers, enduring source of romance and mystery, and now also a poignant and unavoidable indicator of the impact of climate change.

As the ice cap shrinks, the geography of the entire Arctic region changes—clear shipping channels replace immovable ice and inaccessible oil resources become available. What will be the long-term consequences of these cataclysmic changes, not only environmentally but also socially and politically? How will the lives of the many individuals who depend upon the natural resources of the Arctic be changed? And how will the global powers that wish to exploit the region’s many assets respond?

Cold Front is not just another attempt to predict the outcome of global warming. It offers a clear-sighted and penetrating investigation of the Arctic’s pivotal role in international relations, placing the polar region in its historical, political, and legal context. The thawing of the ice cap creates huge opportunities for trade and transport—and therefore also for conflict between Arctic nations. This beautifully written investigation provides insight, answers, and hope for the future of the region.

Review from the Washington Post: “On Aug. 27, 2008, a NASA satellite hovering above the North Pole captured images that stunned climate-focused scientists around the world. Both navigable passages linking the eastern and western hemispheres were clear of ice at the same time, a first in recorded history. Based on the rare occurrence, climatologists began making bold predictions about the future of the far north. Some scientists claimed a new northwest passage would be reliably open for ice-free sailing in the summer months as soon as 2013. In David Fairhall’s evocative new book, “Cold Front,” the issue is not whether the polar ice sheet will melt — because in his mind it surely will — but what happens then.

Fairhall covers the history of Arctic exploration from the 1500s to the present day. Several countries, including Canada, the United States and Russia, claim far north territory. In 2007, one zealot went so far as 14,000 feet below the ocean’s surface to plant a Russian flag in the sea floor directly beneath the North Pole.

Fairhall explains that the Arctic is rich in natural resources such as zinc and nickel and is home to about one quarter of the world’s unexploited reserves of oil and natural gas, “an immense strategic prize.” He notes that “political squabbles — if nothing worse — are bound to arise.” While the fortunes of several countries may improve with an ice-free Arctic, the melting polar cap may usher in a new age for the Earth as a whole. Fairhall believes, for example, that massive pockets of methane gas released from the warming Earth could damage the ozone layer and lead to major atmospheric changes.

—T. Rees Shapiro”

Get the book at Amazon!

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