The Arctic Council failed to release a joint declaration this week following objections from US representatives, who had issues with the mention of climate change science and the Paris Agreement.
This is the very first time in the organization's 23-year history that such a statement has not been published. Instead, a brief statement was published Tuesday, simply reaffirming the nations' commitment to "maintain peace, stability, and constructive cooperation in the Arctic".
Seven of the Council's eight member countries (Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland) displayed a unified front, expressing a desire to take a stronger stance against climate change. But the US stood alone.
According to The New York Times, US representatives refused to include any mention of the Paris Agreement or recent research on climate change in the declaration. It has been reported that the US disagreed with statements that climate change poses a major threat to the Arctic.
However, the other countries refused to "water down" comments on climate change, a Finnish delegate, Timo Koivurova, told The BBC. The result was a stalemate.
"A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience," Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, who chaired the talks, explained, Reuters reports.
"I don’t want to name and blame anyone."
Making the US's stubborn refusal to acknowledge climate change even more extraordinary is the fact that studies have shown that the Arctic region is experiencing some of the highest rates of warming – indeed, Arctic temps appear to be rising at twice the speed of the rest of the world. While the past five years have produced the zone's warmest temperatures documented since 1900, when record-keeping began.
Last year, it was discovered that for the first time in history the Arctic's thickest (and oldest) ice is breaking. And thanks to strong positive feedback loops in the polar regions, we can expect things to heat up even quicker in the near future.
Rather than a cause of concern, the White House sees unprecedented levels of glacial melt as an opportunity for capitalism and even more fossil fuel burning.
Addressing the forum in Rovaniemi, northern Finland, on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the warming Arctic a land of “opportunity and abundance", with largely unaccessed reserves of oil, gas, gold, and other rare earth metals.
"Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade," he told audiences, The BBC reports. "This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days."
"Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st-century Suez and Panama Canals," he added.
On this philosophy, however, he appears to be alone. As one official told The NYT: "There’s seven countries on one side, and the US on the other."