Arctic interests have spillover effects

June 6, 2012 at 7:57 AM

OSLO, Norway, June 6 (UPI) -- Environmental concerns about oil and natural gas operations in the arctic are butting up against geopolitical issues, experts said from Norway.

International delegates gathered at the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard to discuss the move toward a low-carbon economy and related environmental issues.

Swedish lawmaker Anders Wijkman, chairman of the symposium, said most members of the international community are ignoring issues associated with emerging interest in the arctic.

"Ecosystems as well as livelihoods are presently undergoing rapid change," he told British newspaper The Guardian. "In spite of all the evidence provided by science, most governments in the world have failed to take the necessary action."

Environmental scientists predict arctic species could be threatened by global climate change and island nations could become submerged.

Melting sea ice is exposing vast unexplored deposits of oil and natural gas and is threatening to spark territorial disputes over the rights within the Arctic Circle.

Frederic Hauge, director of Norwegian environmental group Bellona, told The Guardian that arctic exploration carried with it big risks behind immediate environmental concerns.

"I am also very worried about the geopolitics of the arctic," he said. "We are acting like 'petroholics' and I do not believe there is widespread support for it."

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