By 2050, who will be the winners and losers?
The definition of a winner and loser depends on your point of view. There will be a surprising rise of indigenous power; from a human rights perspective, the indigenous groups are huge winners.
Most climate change will be overwhelmingly negative. But there will be milder winters and a longer growing season in the northern countries, even in the northern U.S. like Minnesota. If you are a raccoon pushing north, it’s good. But if you are a polar bear, it’s bad.
There will be reduced ice cover in the Arctic, which will allow for easier access for shipping. But the interiors of the north will become less accessible. So, we’ll see a rising maritime economy –- with greater access by sea, but reduced access by land.
What’s happening with the aboriginal people through the high latitudes?
During the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, these people were pushed out, but in recent years there’s a been a rise in aboriginal power. It started in 1971 in Alaska with the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
This means that the northern people are now stakeholders. From a human rights perspective, it’s great. From an environmental perspective, once the agreements are in place, aboriginal people will be able to favor resource development. Though the aboriginal people deeply care about the land and want to minimize damage. This is happening in Canada. But it’s not echoed in most of Europe and in Russia it's bleak.
The perception Americans have of Arctic people is different from the way Arctic people view themselves. To them, they are changing like everyone else –- they want to move to town, they want the Internet. To us, the Arctic is a pristine part of the planet that we like to protect; we like to know it exists. In terms of hunting, to them, they have lived off of these animals for thousands of years. To them, oil and gas are bounty of the land.
I'd like to believe Smith's prediction of a more prosperous future for Canada, though as always politics and the questions of what resources will actually be made available and in what volumes will determine that. I don't understand his attitude towards indigenous peoples, his assumptions that global warming will empower them. If he's assuming mass migration north to the Arctic--to the territories where, very often, indigenous peoples have remained majority populations because their regions are so hostile--then indigenous peoples will become as minoritized and ultimately irrelevant as their counterparts in more fertile areas. If we end up having a half-million people in Nunavut of which perhaps a fifth are Inuit by 2050, what will remain of Inuit culture apart from folklore and peripherality? The same goes elsewhere, of course.