China and the Arctic
To date, China has one of the largest polar research capabilities with over 26 organized expeditions since 1984 and three research stations in Antarctica. National focus turned to the Arctic in 1995 when a group of Chinese scientists and journalists traveled to the North Pole to conduct research on the Arctic's ice cover, climate and environment. Can you guess why the Chinese have been especially interested in cold, snow, and ice as of late?
China is very dependent on international shipping for their economic development, so any change to international shipping routes will be of high priority to the Chinese. The prospect of the Arctic being navigable during summer months, leading to both shorter shipping routes and access to untapped energy resources, has impelled the government to allocate more resources to Arctic research. Estimates differ on the exact summer that we will see an ice-free Arctic Ocean (from 2013-2060), but popular and scientific opinion agree: eventually, the ice will disappear from the sea during future summer months, alluding to China's preparation for an ice-free Arctic.
This is a hard pill to swallow for idealists and even practical environmentalists, but the facts remain that China, along with other major global powers including Canada and Denmark, have re-directed their interests away from preventative, environmental Arctic policies to economic and political strategy towards the future of ice-less opportunities. But with the US Geological Survey estimating that the Arctic contains up to 30% of the world's undiscovered gas and 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil, it's hard to be that surprised about the recent change in heart.
These countries are moving forward with the knowledge that sea ice will soon be a trite problem of the past. I guess it's possible to call this kind of forward-thinking adaptability, although I doubt that devout environmentalists would like that too much.
My question is: does preparing for the future of an ice-less planet mean that we've given up all possibility of saving our Arctic ice caps? Because both situations - either drilling for undiscovered oil under a former ice cap or reducing our carbon outputs - require technological equipment and advances that are still too much out of our grasp to be called easy. Both situations, however, benefit humanity in different ways. Which one will we choose?