Our polar regions are melting. It’s a serious environmental problem. But it’s also an economic opportunity for those with a geo-political stake in our northern and southern extremes. In the Arctic, Vladimir Putin dreams of creating a shipping lane to rival the Suez Canal. While in the Antarctic, China is busy making its presence felt by cutting the ribbon on yet another new research station. But is it all more than just political manoeuvring and international point-scoring? And what are the long-term environmental implications?