Arctic Geo-economy

In the past few years we have witnessed a set of changes in the planet’s climate, with a particular emphasis in the Arctic region. The increase in average temperatures unleashed the destruction of a significant part of the Permafrost [1] and significantly changed the geography and economy of the region. 

Regarding the natural resources, this temperature increase has allowed the enlargement of fishing areas, creation of new extraction areas for resources such as oil, gas, diamonds and other highly valued assets. When it comes to commercial transactions, the opening of new air, sea and land routes has given its contribute to the increase of transportation, tourism, harbor activities and tertiary sector activities in general. Its impact is also visible in the advent of the need of security and defense structures, as well as search and rescue means. 

The main challenge is to assess whether the profit that is generated by these activities is being used to improve the lives of local populations, or if they will be used to enrich external entities and further destabilize the region. 

Some threats are already a reality. For instance, the younger members of the native tribes are abandoning the classic behavior and taking on new tastes and attitudes that are not understood amidst their communities. Another concerning situation was the very serious oil spill on Prince William Sound’s region, in Alaska, in March 1989, which triggered one of the greatest environmental disasters caused by human intervention. 

In this context, the Arctic Economic Council (AEC) emerged with the aim of facilitating economic development in a sustained and responsible way. In spite of being an organism for consultation and opinion, it plays an important role due to the diversity and origins of its members. The AEC is constituted by representatives of the States and economic Organizations of all the countries of the region [2]; it defends that, in order to be efficient and effective, economic activities must take into account the unique challenges and characteristics of the Arctic region. 

[1] Permafrost – ‘Permanent Frost’. In Geology, it corresponds to ground (including rock or (cryotic) soil) at or below the freezing point of water [0ºC (32ºF)] for two or more years. 

[2] A list of the AEC member can be found at

Author: Mário Pontes