x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

A white herring

Foreign ministers of the eight countries that border the Arctic are meeting in Greenland's tiny, northern capital. The meeting is a nice nod to the fact of rapid Arctic warming, but unfortunately there is more interest, in some quarters, in northern oil and gas than in fighting climate change.

Foreign ministers from the eight Arctic countries - Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Canada and the United States - are meeting this week to discuss climate change and northern resources.

They are assembling in Nuuk (population 15,500), the capital of Greenland - which is part of the kingdom of Denmark, which qualifies that country for a seat at the table.

We trust the ministers packed boots. Nuuk's temperatures yesterday ranged from 2°C to -2°C, which is known as "slush weather" by our friends in colder climates. But Nuuk used to be colder; the whole top of the world is warming faster than the rest of the planet.

The town is 240km south of the Arctic Circle, but north of any national capital. The Arctic Council, as the group of eight is called, weighed the publicity value of a northern meeting against the carbon footprint of the event - extra flights, trash and the like - and decided to go ahead.

Soot, greenhouse gas and climate change are on the agenda, but the elephant seal in the room is oil and gas. Experts say, with a mysterious certainty, that up to a quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas is in the Arctic. So many decision-makers shrug off the effects of climate change by saying that it will be an opportunity to extract more fossil fuel and catch more fish in the Arctic. Now, that is a coldway to view the world.