Arctic Development

December 2, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 42
Will tourism and oil drilling worsen climate change?
By Reed Karaim


Russia's Prirazlomnaya oil-drilling platform in the Pechora Sea (Getty Images/Anadolu Agency/Sergey Anisimov)
Russia's Prirazlomnaya oil-drilling platform in the Pechora Sea is the world's first stationary, ice-resistant oil rig. As the ice cover melts in the Arctic Ocean, Russia, the United States and six other nations with territory above the Arctic Circle are beginning to exploit underwater natural resources. Many observers say Russia is the most aggressive in seeking to extend its Arctic territorial rights. (Getty Images/Anadolu Agency/Sergey Anisimov)

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.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Environmental Protection
Mar. 17, 2023  Forever Chemicals
Sep. 02, 2022  Preserving the Seas
Jun. 17, 2022  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 17, 2021  Endangered Species
Nov. 06, 2020  Preventing Wildfires
Jul. 10, 2020  Circular Economy
Nov. 29, 2019  Climate Change and Health
Sep. 20, 2019  Extreme Weather
Dec. 07, 2018  Plastic Pollution
Dec. 02, 2016  Arctic Development
Apr. 22, 2016  Managing Western Lands
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
Climate Change
Economic Development
Energy and the Environment
Energy Policy
International Law and Agreements
Land Resources and Property Rights
Mineral Industries
Oil and Natural Gas
Regional Political Affairs: Canada
Regional Political Affairs: Russia and the Former Soviet Union
Regulation and Deregulation
Water Pollution