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Future of the Arctic

September 20, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 33
Can the region's resources be safely tapped?
By Jennifer Weeks

Introduction

Rapidly melting Arctic ice is providing new opportunities for shipping, fishing and access to the region's rich mineral resources (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)
Rapidly melting Arctic ice is providing new opportunities for shipping, fishing and access to the region's rich mineral resources. But uncoordinated development could have serious impacts on the environment and native communities, many observers warn. Above, an iceberg rises out of the water off Qaqortoq, Greenland. (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

Global interest in the Arctic is rising as climate change causes Arctic sea ice to melt at record rates. The receding ice offers access to the region's abundant oil, gas and mineral deposits and could provide shorter shipping routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Many nations also want to fish the region's increasingly ice-free waters. However, many observers say uncontrolled Arctic development could damage fragile ecosystems and communities already under serious pressure. Others say the United States is not paying enough attention to the Arctic and has not set detailed priorities for the region. The Obama administration supports energy production in Arctic Alaska, including offshore oil and gas drilling, but Shell Oil suffered widely publicized setbacks last year with its operations in Alaskan waters. Now critics want to bar such projects, but the energy industry and Alaska officials say Arctic oil and gas reserves can be tapped responsibly.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Environmental Protection
Jul. 18, 2014  Regulating Toxic Chemicals
Sep. 20, 2013  Future of the Arctic
Jun. 14, 2013  Climate Change
Nov. 06, 2012  Vanishing Biodiversity
Nov. 02, 2012  Managing Wildfires
Nov. 04, 2011  Managing Public Lands
Aug. 26, 2011  Gulf Coast Restoration
Jul. 2010  Plastic Pollution
Feb. 2010  Climate Change
Jan. 09, 2009  Confronting Warming
Dec. 05, 2008  Reducing Your Carbon Footprint
Nov. 2008  Carbon Trading
Oct. 03, 2008  Protecting Wetlands
Feb. 29, 2008  Buying Green
Dec. 14, 2007  Future of Recycling
Nov. 30, 2007  Disappearing Species
Feb. 2007  Curbing Climate Change
Dec. 01, 2006  The New Environmentalism
Jan. 27, 2006  Climate Change
Oct. 25, 2002  Bush and the Environment
Oct. 05, 2001  Invasive Species
Nov. 05, 1999  Saving Open Spaces
Jun. 11, 1999  Saving the Rain Forests
May 21, 1999  Setting Environmental Priorities
Mar. 19, 1999  Partisan Politics
Oct. 16, 1998  National Forests
Jun. 19, 1998  Environmental Justice
Aug. 23, 1996  Cleaning Up Hazardous Wastes
Mar. 31, 1995  Environmental Movement at 25
Jun. 19, 1992  Lead Poisoning
May 15, 1992  Jobs Vs. Environment
Jan. 17, 1992  Oil Spills
Sep. 20, 1991  Saving the Forests
Apr. 26, 1991  Electromagnetic Fields: Are They Dangerous?
Sep. 08, 1989  Free Market Environmental Protection
Dec. 09, 1988  Setting Environmental Priorities
Jul. 29, 1988  Living with Hazardous Wastes
Dec. 20, 1985  Requiem for Rain Forests?
Aug. 17, 1984  Protecting the Wilderness
Jun. 15, 1984  Troubled Ocean Fisheries
Aug. 19, 1983  America's Disappearing Wetlands
Feb. 22, 1980  Noise Control
Nov. 16, 1979  Closing the Environmental Decade
Oct. 13, 1978  Toxic Substance Control
Feb. 27, 1976  Pollution Control: Costs and Benefits
Nov. 28, 1975  Forest Policy
May 30, 1975  Wilderness Preservation
Dec. 20, 1974  Environmental Policy
Nov. 14, 1973  Strip Mining
Dec. 01, 1971  Global Pollution
Jul. 21, 1971  Protection of the Countryside
Jan. 06, 1971  Pollution Technology
Jun. 19, 1968  Protection of the Environment
Oct. 30, 1963  Noise Suppression
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Climate Change
Energy and the Environment
Energy Policy
International Law and Agreements
Oil and Natural Gas
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