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New perspectives on development in the Arctic

Nordregio researcher Rasmus Ole Rasmussen, an expert on Arctic related issues, was interviewed by Vetenskapsradion, a program on Swedish Radio, in two broadcasts about the possibilities and dangers of extracting oil in Arctic regions.

Melting ice in the Polar Regions has increased access, and thereby provided possibilities of exploiting resources from these regions. On one hand it creates opportunities for global companies who extract minerals and energy resources. It also generates new economic opportunities for Arctic populations to develop jobs and income, which are important for increasing self-reliance and independence.

The question of potential environmental problems was recently brought forward by Greenpeace, who emphasizes that the pristine Arctic environment could suffer from oil spills and blow-outs similar to the recent situation in the Gulf of Mexico.

Rasmus Ole Rasmussen has several counter-arguments to these concerns. The risk of events similar to those in the Gulf of Mexico is lower due to the highly developed technologies in relation to oil production in Arctic regions. Additionally, greater oversight of oil companies by respective authorities, combined with the fact that recovering an oil spill in the Arctic is easier due to the behaviour of oil in cold and icy waters, limits the negative consequences. The May 12th 2011 decision by The Arctic Council to strengthen aeronautical and maritime search and rescue cooperation and coordination in the Arctic helps to further reduce the risks.

Greenpeace has suggested a moratorium on oil production in the Arctic, and have promoted this opinion in the Swedish press to influence the Swedish Government, who serves as Chair of The Arctic Council for the next two years. Rasmus Ole Rasmussen disagrees with the proposal, stressing the need for the Arctic to take advantage of their resources to ensure a sustainable development in the Arctic, an approach which has been further elaborated on in a new book on MEGATRENDS in the Arctic, presented at the Arctic Council meeting in Nuuk, Greenland, in May.

Listen to the broadcasts online:

Broadcast from Thursday May 19th: "Arktis kan klara en exploatering av oljeresurserna".

Debate between Rasmus Ole Rasmussen and Therese Jacobsson from Greenpeace on Friday May 20th: "Sanering av olja i kalla vatten, hur svårt kan det va?".

Rasmus Ole Rasmussen

Senior Research Fellow