In decades ahead, climate change may produce heat waves, droughts, and coastal flooding that will drive large numbers of people north, says Laurence C. Smith in The Wall Street Journal. This could mean a "tremendous transformation" is in store for the Arctic over the next century. Tourism is "already booming" up there, and scientists say the region's oil and gas potential give it "rising strategic value." And that will only increase as receding sea ice frees up currently inaccessible shipping lanes. It's time to get ready for the rise of the New North. Here, an excerpt:

Imagine the Arctic in 2050 as a frigid version of Nevada — an empty landscape dotted with gleaming boom towns. Gas pipelines fan across the tundra, fueling fast-growing cities to the south like Calgary and Moscow, the coveted destinations for millions of global immigrants. It's a busy web for global commerce, as the world's ships advance each summer as the seasonal sea ice retreats, or even briefly disappears...

Flying over the American West today, one still sees landscapes that are barren and sparsely populated. Its towns and cities are relatively few, scattered across miles of empty desert. Yet its population is growing, its cities like Phoenix and Salt Lake and Las Vegas humming economic forces with cultural and political significance. This is how I imagine the coming human expansion in the New North.

Read the full article in The Wall Street Journal.