Who Owns the Arctic? Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North

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Who Owns the Arctic? Understanding Sovereignty Disputes in the North
By Michael Byers
Douglas & McIntyre, 2009
192 pp. $17.95

Even though it will take years for the melting of the Arctic ice sheets to trigger widespread coastal flooding, other effects have already appeared: warming in the region has ignited a scramble by neighboring states for resources and ownership. Great-power politics has come to the North Pole. Byers, a Canadian scholar of international law, surveys the emerging lines of conflict, focusing on territorial and sovereignty disputes. Since the Arctic is a sea of frozen ice, no country will "own" its expanse. But as the ice melts, the neighboring states -- Canada, Denmark (which owns Greenland), Russia, and the United States -- are asserting their respective "sovereignty rights." Byers provides a primer on everything at stake: the promise of vast oil and gas deposits in the seabed below, the navigation rights of the Northwest Passage, the protection of endangered species, the preservation of Arctic indigenous communities, and the rising security issues associated with the newly exposed coastlines and seaways. Written with an eye toward Canadian policymakers, the book urges governments to not just settle claims of sovereignty but also articulate a common vision of an open and peaceful Arctic region.

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