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As climate change melts the northern polar ice cap, it is opening the sparsely populated and ecologically fragile Arctic region to tourism, shipping, industry and expanded development of oil and other natural resources. The discovery of a major, new oil field in Alaskan Arctic waters has stoked some residents' hopes that mineral and industrial development could boost the region's economy and provide more jobs. But others say the environmental consequences of further development, including potential oil spills and other damage to the Arctic ecosystem, outweigh any benefits. Rising seas and eroding coastlines, they say, already are forcing some Native Alaskan villages to abandon their traditional lands. And drilling opponents warn that a warming climate — Arctic ice coverage is at a record low and temperatures in November spiked 36 degrees Fahrenheit above normal — is harming wildlife, including seals, walruses and migratory birds. Meanwhile, a Russian military buildup has the United States and other Arctic nations bracing for a possible arms race in the geopolitically strategic region.
The Arctic Council aims to reduce black carbon.
Economic stakes are high for Arctic geopolitical claims.
Oil found in Smith Bay could boost Alaska.
The president-elect vowed to open Arctic areas to drilling.
|1740s–1780s||Europeans and Anglo-Americans move into the Arctic.|
|1860s–1910s||Arctic exploration continues as Anglo settlement takes hold.|
|1930s–1960s||World War II and the discovery of major oil fields in the Arctic transform the region.|
|1970s–1990s||Oil continues to power the Arctic economy.|
|2000s-Present||Climate change and the potential for new development dominate debates over Arctic policy.|