Perhaps you recall the "Northwest Passage" from your seventh grade social studies class. Until the phrase showed up on the AP newswire and at the center of Canada's aggressive new defense policy, I had almost forgotten about this long-sought-for shortcut to Asia that swallowed up so many European explorers.
Usually frozen, the Passage has historically only been passable for a few days every summer. The onset of global warming has raised its strategic value, since all the ice in the world might be gone soon. In addition to a transcontinental shipping route that's 2,480 miles shorter than going through the Panama Canal, it turns out those northern straits host bountiful fishing stocks, valuable minerals, and—get this—25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves.
In the manner of any self-respecting oil producer (especially given the recent IEA report of an oncoming oil supply crunch), Canada has begun an aggressive campaign to protect what the Canadians say is rightfully theirs. Despite his country's history of turning a blind eye to U.S. usage of the Passage, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has forthrightly asserted Canadian sovereignty over the arctic waterways:
Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it. It is no exaggeration to say that the need to assert our sovereignty and protect our territorial integrity in the North on our terms have never been more urgent.
What's more, Canada has recently hoisted the maple leaf over Hans island, a small, barren rock less than a thousand miles from the North Pole. Countering Danish claims of sovereignty over the island, which isn't far from Denmark's Greenland, many Canadians have even called for a boycott of Danish pastries.
First PM Harper won't talk to Bono, and now he's on the warpath, hoping to reap the rewards of global warming. Better keep an eye on this fellow.
Passport, FP’s flagship blog, brings you news and hidden angles on the biggest stories of the day, as well as insights and under-the-radar gems from around the world.