Five countries that border the Arctic Ocean are claiming rights to large, overlapping sections of the seafloor. Three say the North Pole is theirs. Diplomats could slowly work out boundaries based on geologic evidence unless rising geopolitical tension makes the science moot.
Arctic landscapes and seascapes are changing dramatically. Rising air and water temperatures, shrinking ice and thawing permafrost are causing all kinds of living things—from algae and trees to fish and caribou—to expand their range, change migrations or, in some cases, struggle to survive.
Russia is expanding its Arctic military presence, while NATO holds large Arctic exercises, signs that aggression could mount. Yet conflict is not necessarily inevitable: countries may decide they have more to gain by cooperatively developing the changing region.