If any evidence were needed that global warming can generate geopolitical conflict wherever it dramatically changes the climate, it was to be found in the recent biennial meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland. For the first time since it was set up in 1996, the council failed to issue a joint statement on the fragile, melting polar region. The reason was that the United States objected to the wording of sentences on climate change, and the other members were not prepared to water them down. With the shipping channel becoming increasingly navigable as the ice melts, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has accused China of trying to turn the Arctic into another South China Sea, and said Russia was trying to remilitarise it nearly 30 years after the cold war. It is ironic, given these claims, that the US refused to support a united position on global warming that threatens the existence of the Arctic as we know it, and opens it up to global power and competition for vast reserves of natural resources and fish stocks. The council consists of the Arctic border states – the US, Russia, Canada, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland – with China having observer status. Their responsibility is to protect the region by ensuring the maintenance of environmental standards, freedom of navigation and indigenous rights. Given that climate change is the paramount issue, the US refusal to sign a joint communique is regrettable. The Arctic really is turning into a conflict zone, with countries scrambling to claim territory or, like China, boost their presence. The world could do with fewer trouble hotspots. It does not need another in a pristine polar region defined by competition for resources, such as the remaining undiscovered reserves of oil and gas and huge deposits of minerals including zinc, iron and rare earth metals. This cannot be good for mankind. With surface air temperatures in the Arctic warming at twice the rate of the rest of the globe, the ocean could be ice-free during the summer months within 25 years, according to scientists. That could have a profound effect on global weather as well as wildlife and indigenous populations. All the stakeholders should approach the Arctic issue from the point of view of the interests of humanity.