Polar Regions

News Release

Emerging Arctic Explored in New CFR InfoGuide

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has released a new interactive guide examining the economic opportunities and environmental risks emerging in the Arctic. Climate change, technological advances, and a growing demand for natural resources are driving a new era of development in the Arctic region. Many experts assert that Arctic summers could be free of sea ice in a matter of decades, opening the region up to hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, most notably in energy production and shipping.

See more in Arctic; Energy and Environment

Must Read

The Economist: Governing the Oceans

"Yet the state of the high seas is deteriorating (see article). Arctic ice now melts away in summer. Dead zones are spreading. Two-thirds of the fish stocks in the high seas are over-exploited, even more than in the parts of the oceans under national control. And strange things are happening at a microbiological level. The oceans produce half the planet's supply of oxygen, mostly thanks to chlorophyll in aquatic algae. Concentrations of that chlorophyll are falling. That does not mean life will suffocate. But it could further damage the climate, since less oxygen means more carbon dioxide."

See more in Arctic; Politics and Strategy

Must Read

The Arctic Institute: The Future of Arctic Shipping: A New Silk Road?

Author: Malte Humpert

"Arctic shipping will remain of limited importance to China, as it will for the rest of the world. Future shipping in the Polar region will mostly consist of seasonal destinational transport, delivering supplies into the Arctic for its increasing economic activity and transporting the region's natural resources to markets in East Asia."

See more in Arctic; Trade

Must Read

The Conversation: Why Is Antarctic Sea Ice Growing?

Author: Guy Williams

"This winter, the maximum total Antarctic sea ice extent was reported to be 19.47 million square metres, which is 3.6% above the winter average calculated from 1981 to 2010. This continues a trend that is weakly positive and remains in stark contrast to the decline in Arctic summer sea ice extent (2013 was 18% below the mean from 1981-2010). To further complicate this picture, we find this net increase actually masks strong declines in particular regions around Antarctica, such as in the Bellingshausen Sea, which are on par or greater than those in the Artic."

See more in Polar Regions; Climate Change

Primary Sources

Joint Statement on the Establishment of Marine Protected Areas

On October 16, 2013, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, France, New Zealand, the United States and The Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Union released a joint statement on establishing marine protected areas in Southern Ocean, in the Ross Sea Region and in East Antarctica, for scientific research and ocean conservation.

See more in Antarctica; Oceans

Expert Brief

A Coast Guard for the Emerging Arctic

Author: Captain Peter Troedsson, USCG

As human activity intensifies in the Arctic, U.S. interests would be best represented by a reinforced Coast Guard, exercising the role it carries out in other coastal areas, writes CFR Military Fellow Peter Troedsson.

See more in Arctic

Primary Sources

U.S. Coast Guard: Arctic Strategy

Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Robert Papp released this maritime governance document on May 21, 2013, which will "guide our efforts in the region over the next 10 years" based on "three key objectives: improving awareness, modernizing governance, and broadening partnerships."

See more in Arctic; Defense Strategy; Oceans

Must Read

CRS: Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress

Author: Ronald O'Rourke

Many observers have noted that the loss of Arctic ice is already leading to stepped-up human activity in the high north, particularly in the form of increasing commercial traffic and development. This trend has brought forth a range of issues on the geopolitical front, from environmental protection to search-and-rescue capabilities to the delineation of national boundaries—which will determine access to natural resources. These concerns are being addressed cooperatively in both bilateral and multilateral fashion, especially under the aegis of the Arctic Council and the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

See more in Arctic; Climate Change; Environmental Policy

Must Read

Lloyd's: Arctic Opening: Opportunity and Risk in the High North

Authors: Charles Emmerson and Glada Lahn

The Arctic region is undergoing unprecedented and disruptive change. Its climate is changing more rapidly than anywhere else on earth. Rising temperatures are causing a retreat of sea ice and changes to seasonal length, weather patterns and ecosystems. These changes have prompted a reassessment of economic and development potential in the Arctic and are giving rise to a set of far-reaching political developments.

See more in Economic Development; Climate Change; Arctic