Changing Planet

Who Owns the North Pole?

According to The Copenhagen Post, the government of Denmark has officially stated its intention to claim the North Pole for the Kingdom of Denmark. If they have, that’s because the North Pole doesn’t belong to any nation. Why is that? Can any country lay such a claim?

The North Pole and surrounding waters are international waters that do not belong to any country. Coastal countries have the rights to the marine resources up to 200 nautical miles offshore, according to the 1982 UN Convention of the Law of the Sea – that’s their exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Beyond the EEZs, the sea belongs to no nation. However, the Law of the Sea allows some nations to extend their claims if their continental shelf extends into international waters beyond their EEZ. Under this clause, Russia has claimed the resources on the seabed and the sea around the Lomonosov ridge, an underwater mountain ridge crossing the Arctic (see map).

Out of the blue came Denmark’s news. Its government will likely claim the North Pole as an extension of Greenland, an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.

The complex national boundaries in the Arctic and the high seas in the "doughnut hole" in between the exclusive economic zones of Arctic nations. Source: University of Durham


Why are countries interested in the North Pole and surrounding waters? Simply because the ice is melting and that opens up new business opportunities: oil and gas, minerals, fisheries, and new transportation routes.

The United States cannot make such claims because it has not ratified the Convention of the Law of the Sea. A group of Republican Senators has blocked ratification because they say it’s detrimental to US national interests. Ironically, this leaves the US disadvantaged with respect to the other Arctic nations, which did ratify the Convention.

I believe – as many conservation and scientific organizations believe – that the “doughnut hole” in the middle of the Arctic’s EEZs should be declared a no-take sanctuary. That ecosystem is too fragile and unique, a heritage for all humanity.


Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.
  • arvind sareen

    Certain land on Earth should be declared NO MAN,S LAND
    and just enjoy the beauty of that land .We humans have have discovered a lot; now its time for our future genrations ,we must leave something for them to explore .and maintain the beauty of earth as far as sustain it for another couple of million years

  • […] Who Owns the North Pole? […]

  • Johns Smiths

    I can’t agree more.The noth pole belongs to all the human being ,it’s proprietary couldn’t be based upon geological factor.It stands for we human beings wisdom crystalization

  • Juvy Love L. Lacre

    no one will own such nation…for it may destroy it’s beautiful environment…we humans can’t be satisfied with what we have…why don’t we just preserve it’s beauty instead of destroying it for selfish reasons…

  • electriclady281

    I just read this article today that said that if trends continue , the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in Sept. by 2016
    So it would seem that in five years’ time, this discussion would be a moot point.

  • electriclady281

    I just read this article today that said that if trends continue , the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in Sept. by 2016:
    So it would seem that in five years’ time, this discussion would be a moot point.

  • Keem Kenneth Santos

    These countries should instead think and implement ways on how to keep the ice from melting – to save lives, not only of human but also of many different species.


    The act of land to belong to people is the one that is causing people to claim So if the land is near them they a right to claim for it.

  • Adam

    I agree, such a beautiful area belongs to the people and should not be exploited for economic gain. But I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government has laid claim for the last 100 years or more. Although not recognized by the US, most political maps from the last century show it as part of Canada. The furthest North permanently inhabited town is in Canada. You can’t just say something is your’s because you think you can make money off of it. Many of todays problems would have a solution if the world worked this way.

  • David Waghorn

    Everyone knows the North Pole belongs to Santa Clause.

  • osiris

    it is this human nature that caused neverending wars between what so called “NATION”

  • Idmb

    If any one nation should own it, I suggest the Principality of Sealand.

  • khairiatun ali

    Human have own many lands on this plant, so why don’t we give nature a chance instead? Not that we loss anything anyway.

  • Peter Lund

    “The furthest North permanently inhabited town is in Canada.”


    Apparently, Longyearbyen (long year + “the city” in Norwegian) on Svalbard wins. Qaanaaq in Greenland is number two.

    I don’t know if Longyearbyen really is permanently populated these days but Qaanaaq certainly is.

    The question of the North Pole is not really about the North Pole, it is about new sea routes and about oil, gas, and (potentially) minerals under the sea.

    I don’t believe Denmark is really acting completely alone: I bet the rest of the European Union would prefer it to be Danish rather than Russian (worst outcome), American (second-worst), Canadian (tolerable), or Norwegian (not too bad, either).

    China is rather miffed that it hasn’t got a say in this, btw. Some countries think it should be decided by a rather larger group than the current 5 members of the Arctic Council (DK, NO, CA, RU, US).

  • Peter Lund

    “You can’t just say something is your’s because you think you can make money off of it.”

    Forgot to add: it’s not just because we say so. And we haven’t, btw.

    US/RU/CA/DA/NO agreed to a) get an arbitration from a suborgan of the UN and b) let the underwater geography be the main decider.
    (We also decided to leave the other members of the Arctic Council out of this because they aren’t bordering on the North Pole — and we left out the native members of the council as well, which was not so nice. It’s one thing for the Norwegian Saami to not get a say in this but the Inuit/Inuktitut population in Alaska, Nunavut, and Greenland don’t, either.)

    See also:

  • ដេត

    Is there any measurement to stop Denmark from conquer this area? I just want to see this human’s heritage and the biodiversity last 4ever and undisturbed. Lives and Business opportunities are not equal.

  • Jay Tee

    I own all the air on the planet, but I am willing to entertain any offers on it.

  • tommy

    every country have they own land now so y now they want to claim the north pole for let leave the this place alone because no body want to c ww3 happened over this lol…………………

  • Tim

    ““The furthest North permanently inhabited town is in Canada.”


    Apparently, Longyearbyen (long year + “the city” in Norwegian) on Svalbard wins. Qaanaaq in Greenland is number two.”
    The northern most permanently inhabited place in the world is Alert, Nunavut in Canada

  • Shola

    Yes, exactly. What about the Norwegian Saami , the Inuit/Inuktitut population in Alaska, Nunavut, and Greenland? Do they have any rights?!!!

  • Lemmy C

    Jamaica! Give it to Jamaica!

  • Sk. Ashraf Ali

    It is very wrong if any country claims North Pole.
    Places like North Pole, South Pole should be only for the people of the world like the tourists, environmentalists, explorers, scientists; not anyone’s property nor any country’s state.

  • Megs

    Why fight over the North Pole? I mean it’s not like you can grow food on it, yes a lot of animals live on it, but come on modern world. What will you do on this breath-taking land? Maybe, just maybe the world should kick back and enjoy the wonderful landscape. Let the North Pole be free to all the animals.

  • Orlando

    Move Israel to the north pole and the land dispute is settled. A little cold though

  • therailer

    Yeah, go ahead – own it, destroy it, watch it melt away and disappear along with all of it’s beauty. I am so sick of humans that try to own “time”. Sorry but the indigenous (genius) people got it right…you can only borrow the location for the short time you are alive. In the long run, what happens with Mother Nature will not be up to us stupid humans-unless we get smart and try to emulate nature.

  • Herbert Sydney Johnson I,m just saying

    Russia sold Alaska to the U S A, I’m sure the Russian did not sell anything other than the land. Denmark YEA thats has no validity-to the claim. Norway somehow claims Greenland and that gives them ownership to the north pole, I guess they hope that works for them. So the toss up becomes between Canada and Russia. OK that the white world now for the real owners just to name a couple tribes eg. Inuit of Canada or chip-chi of Russia or any native or aboriginal north of the50 parallel.

  • Adjudicator

    Let the people who live there decide. LOL Wait, this just in. There are people who live there. Laps, Inuit, Russians, Greenlanders, Alaskans, Eskimos, Norwegians. Do they have a say?


    Imagine no possessions, it isnt hard to do, nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people living for today. John had it right. Someday we may all be able to go wherever we please on our planet as a united humanity that protect and cherishes all life and each other.

  • Keith F

    Could you imagine what will happen if ice will melt.
    The water level would increase and many of our islands here in the philippines would sank. 🙁

  • Dennis Reiley

    Anyone who wants to claim a place had better put a permanent settlement there. As the ice over the north pole moves with currents and weather the settlement will need to move almost daily.

    What really needs to be done is to have all land unclaimed since the year 2000 be administered by the United Nations.

  • Asimov

    With the current ridiculous rise in the world’s population, no-one will end up ‘owning’ anything. As a species, our time here is limited & our world will change irrespective of anything we do or even think we’re doing to it, but over-population is the big issue of the day because of how to feed it, which it seems most commentators (political or otherwise) refuse to acknowledge or even discuss.

  • Heather

    It’s beautiful enviroment? There is nothing there! They show a picture of it in the article! I don’t see any beautiful enviroment!

    Preserve it for all mankind? Who can make this statement with a straight face? How many of “all mankind” will ever, ever, every go to the North Pole???????

  • wayne hinds

    greed is a funny thing, you only see you in all things, because you want it all for your self. Just leave it alone, so much can be said and done, but at the end of the day, it belong to all of us.
    We need to respect what God has given to us for all mankind.

  • nithya jagadish

    A beautiful location like North pole should be left in Nature’s hands…there should be an end to human quest..We have drained all thimgs possible from mother nature..its time to preserve atleast the very few left….

  • ariel tide

    North pole owned by Superman.hehehe. The fortress is located there…

  • Bob

    I thought Santa and his Elves laid claim to the North Pole years ago.

  • Mous

    North Pole belongs to chuck nouris

  • Swamp Squid

    Canada > Denmark > Norway > Russia

  • Nina


  • Nina

    These wealthy humans don’t get it. They keep destroying her earth and oceans for the greed of money and power. Than all of us pay the consequences, some with their lives. When Mother Nature gets sick of us she throws tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal wave, even earth quakes to get our attention and understand what a force she is. But we don’t care we still fuck with her earth, oceans and animals and she will continue letting us know how compare to her we ain’t shit. But since humans especially wealthy ones are very arrogant, self centered and think they know it all, they will continue to destroy our earth, our beautiful oceans with accidents of drunk captains running an oil boat. Destroying and devastating our sea life. They do not come in our world to kill but we go unnecessarily to theirs to destroy. This is one of the reasons I like animals more than most humans I know

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