Developing the Arctic to access these resources "doesn't only have grave consequences," he said, noting that shipping companies had found new, faster sea routes through the area. Grimsson cited Cosco's trial Northern sea journey a couple years ago with a container ship, which was able to travel from Singapore to Rotterdam in 10 fewer days than the normal route, saving on fuel and other costs.
China's state-owned Cosco announced last month that it would begin a regular route through the Arctic Ocean to Europe.
Major investors are already eyeing the Arctic.
"The average economic annual rate of growth in the Arctic region is the highest in the world relative to any country or any economy," Scott Minerd, a managing partner at Guggenheim Partners, said at the forum. Guggenheim manages more than $240 billion.
"For investors, there is an opportunity here to take advantage of the impact of climate change," he said.
Minerd noted that while the cause of climate change might be debated, empirical data indicates it's occurring.
"If you don't believe this is happening, just go to the Arctic and look at it," he said, adding that as an investment manager, he believes it's both prudent and conservative to plan to address climate change as a long-term trend.
One clear beneficiary of the change is the shipping industry, Minerd said. As an example, he cited the shipping route from South Korea, through the Panama Canal, and on to New York. That route is around 13,000 kilometers, while using the Northwest Passage would be only around 5,000 kilometers, he said.
He's not the only one with an eye on the shipping industry.
Singapore, which due to its key location in global shipping lanes has punched above its weight in the maritime industry for nearly 200 years, is watching the development of the Arctic closely.
"The Northern Sea Route, traversing the waters north of Russia, Norway and other countries of the Arctic, could reduce travel time between Northeast Asia and Europe by a third," Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said at the forum.
He noted that divisions of government-linked Keppel Corp, a conglomerate with interests in rig building, had already built and delivered 10 ice-class vessels and was working with oil companies and drillers to develop a "green" rig for the Arctic.
Teo quoted a 2012 Lloyd's of London report that estimated companies would invest as much as $100 billion in the Arctic over the next decade.
While much of the focus on Arctic investment has been on energy and natural resources -- and the possible environmental impact from mining and drilling -- Minerd called that a "great misconception" about the region.
"I'm never going to say that energy is a non-event, or that natural resources are a non-event, but it's no different than anywhere else in the world," he said, noting that Iceland is already getting most of its electricity from renewable sources.