As the ice caps recede, the battle to own the Arctic is hotting up – and one website has now calculated that the natural resources hidden underneath the ice, snow, tundra and ocean could be worth rather more than the entire US economy.
Vocativ has come up with a "best estimate" that the crude oil and natural gas hidden under the Arctic could be worth a "whopping" $17.2 trillion. With other resources such as uranium factored in, that huge figure would rise further still.
The site points out that $17.2 trillion is "bigger than the entire US economy". No wonder Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the US are all at pains to establish their claims on the region.
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Countries bordering the region are "hell-bent on getting the biggest slice of the pie", says Vocativ – and it's the United Nations which has the task of adjudicating.
In 2001 the UN turned down Russia's claim for sovereignty over the Lomonosov Ridge, the 1,800-mile undersea ridge between the Eurasian and Amerasian basins. The Russians went ahead and planted their flag at the North Pole anyway, in 2007.
More recently, the Canadian government has spent $200m on expeditions by scientific ice-breakers bent on surveying the ocean floor to prove its claims to territory in the region.
The UN makes its decisions based on the Convention of the Law of the Sea, which entitles countries to ownership of a continental shelf of up to 200 nautical miles from land and further rights over the seabed extending from those shelves.
As Vocativ observes, there's a lot of green buried underneath all the white.
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