Fran Ulmer: After the Arctic Ice Melts

Sea ice in the Arctic is getting thinner and thinner each year. As the ice melts away, shipping lanes will expand and create new opportunities for ships to use faster and more direct routes. Beyond international trade, countries are eager to start development projects and gain access to natural resources. 

We can see that warmer temperatures will increase activity in the Arctic, but we should also consider what this activity entails. Competition and conflict may arise as countries eye this region. No other nation is more prepared for polar enterprises and protecting untapped natural resources than Russia. 

The US is also interested in this region for its oil reserves, though this has concerned Canada due to environmental factors. 

These three nations, along with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, are all part of the Arctic Council. This governing body is responsible for ensuring the region is safe by encouraging nations to reduce gas emissions and protecting biodiversity. 

However, it seems these goals will be more challenging as the Arctic becomes more accessible. How will member states of the Arctic ensure the region remains safe? Should we expect a period of greater uncertainty as countries and companies increase their presence and vie for space in the Arctic? In terms of the value of untapped natural resources, will development projects allow countries like Russia to gain a stronger foothold in the world? 

The Honorable Fran Ulmer, Chair of the US Arctic Research Commission and current Visiting Professor at Stanford's School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, joins us for a discussion on the challenges facing the Arctic region. 

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