"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."
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.
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.
Paula J. Dobriansky argues that the continuing success of the Antarctic Treaty at its 50th anniversary offers policymakers a powerful diplomatic template on which to combat pressing security, economic, and environmental challenges in the region.
The Arctic Council assesses the impact climate change is having on the Arctic environment, human health, and social, cultural and economic systems. The Assessment encourages Member States to take effective measures through enhancing the access of Arctic residents to information and decision makers.
Ice, snow and climate change are closely linked. The Global Outlook for Ice and Snow investigates those connections, the current situation of ice and snow and the global significance of changes, now and in the years to come.
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.
Sara Banaszak of the American Petroleum Institute and Morgan Gray of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming debate whether opening restricted federal lands and waters will have any effect on the continuing rise in the price of oil.
Frank G. Klotz argues that the United States has important national interests in Antarctica, and these interests must be fully understood and carefully considered, especially as the federal government looks for ways to reduce the deficit.
John B. Bellinger III says President Obama should seize the opportunity presented by Republican support for increased domestic oil and gas production to urge the Senate to approve the Law of the Sea Convention.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2016 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »