– “Permanent Arctic ice may disappear much earlier than previously estimated,” said Dr. Vladimir Kattsov, Director of Voeikov Main Geophysical Observatory in St. Petersburg.
Kattsov warned, at an international forum on the future of the Arctic held in Moscow, that according to recent satellite observations the Arctic region’s sea ice has shrunk to a historical low.
According to experts, this melting will lead to a significant increase in sea levels around the world, which in turn could result in flooding of islands and coastal territories, as well as the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of numerous species.
“The average temperature in the Russian Arctic has grown twice as fast in the last hundred years compared to the rest of the Earth,” said Bedritski, who noted that “the melting of the permafrost is already affecting the economy of the Russian Arctic. ”
Environmentalists and politicians from around the world, which could include Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will meet Thursday in Moscow to discuss the effects of climate change on the Arctic and international interests in that area.
The need to delimit the maritime boundaries in the Arctic Ocean, home to a quarter of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves, is an increasing concern for bordering countries during this Arctic melting.
Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States (the five countries with Arctic coast) star in a decade long struggle for the billions of tons of oil and gas that are contained in the disputed region.
Only in the Barents Sea, whose sovereignty was until recently shared equally between Russia and Norway, contains tens of thousands of millions of tons of oil and gas.
“The Russian Arctic area, includes only 1.5 percent of the country’s population, but provides around 11 percent of our GDP and accounts for 22 percent of the total exports,” stated the climate change advisor for the Russian Presidency, Alexander Bedritski.
However, a consensus will be a challenging task, considering that each country has a different conception of their respective territories. Recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the sovereignty of the Arctic Ocean seabed between Canada and Russia should be decided under international law.
The head of Russian diplomacy informed that his country is currently collecting evidence for the UN in 2013 so boundaries of the Russian continental shelf can be reviewed, including the Lomonosov ridge.
1982 UN Convention declared that the Lomonosov Ridge is not part of any country, but rather, is an area with a special status. Though they do also state that the economic zone of a country can extend beyond 200 nautical miles, if the continental shelf goes beyond those limits.
Other countries with interests in the region, such as the U.S., Canada and Denmark, have criticized Russia’s methods defending its rights in the Arctic, and plan to submit similar requests to the UN.