The earth is getting warmer and, with it, the world's coldest places are emerging as hot new business prospects. The melting ice in the Arctic is being watched not just by anxious climate scientists but by global energy and shipping businesses.
It was thus ironic that five energy-hungry Asian countries - China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea - were invited to join the Arctic Council as permanent observers, just as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached a historic high.
Against this precarious backdrop, it would be wiser to focus on curbing future emissions than on the chimera of business gains offered by an ice-free Arctic.
The May 15 decision of the Arctic Council to invite six non-Arctic nations (Italy is the sixth) is designed to give the latter a ringside seat when decisions are made about seabed mining, fishing and shipping through the ice-free water in the summer months.
Although the exploitation of Arctic waters would be subject to the 322km exclusive economic zone, undersea exploration for gas, oil and minerals is likely to emerge as a hotly contested issue. The new observers would be able to contribute to the deliberations even if they do not have a vote.