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Arctic Security in an Age of Climate Change

Arctic Security in an Age of Climate Change. Edited by James Kraska. Cambridge University Press,; 340 pages, $94.

Editor James Kraska does a very good job of painting a picture of the changing three-dimensional landscape of the arctic region—the environmental, geographical, and political structures of this region. An anthology by leading experts on the area, this book previews the realities of a world impacted by global warming and the implications of such a transition. The book contemplates defense and security from the perspective of the affected states (Canada, Russia, Denmark, Greenland, Norway, United States, Iceland, Sweden, and Finland) based on the foreseeable transition from an ice-bound region to an ice-free one.

Arctic Security in an Age of Climate Change introduces the reader to a region in transition, which stands to become the target of expansive exploration of the continental shelf, increased tourism, and increased commercial maritime shipping motivated by shorter, and thus less expensive, transit. While the issues seem simple at first glance, they will be complicated by territorial debates, some of which already exist and some of which may be created by the dynamics of changing geographical landscapes.

One contributor, Rob Huebert of the University of Calgary, sums it up: “The arctic is melting, which makes it more accessible. As it becomes more accessible, more resources are be­ing discovered in the region. As more resources are discovered, new means of exploiting these resources are being developed, which will speed up the means by which the resources can be developed.” In short, no longer will the vast arctic region be reserved for sparsely populated indigenous peoples, a few scientific outposts, and intrepid adventurers.

The state-related security issues discussed in the book revolve around the paradox of change: Climate change is happening, and nations are preparing to deal with what is likely to become a vastly different landscape. As countries and corporations plan and prepare for the commercial impact by pledging cooperation and international harmony, militaries of these same countries are taking necessary steps to increase their operating capabilities in the arctic as they ready themselves to protect and defend their interests.

While this book would be useful to high-level or advanced security practitioners, it would be most applicable as a textbook in graduate level security management or political science curricula.

Reviewer: Terry L. Wettig, CPP, is director of international security audits for Brink’s, Incorporated. He recently served as regional security director for Brink’s Canada, where his region encompassed some areas discussed in this book. A retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, he is a member of ASIS International.