1 August 2012
Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress
This report provides an overview of Arctic-related issues for Congress. The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region’s future. Issues such as Arctic sovereignty claims; commercial shipping through the Arctic; Arctic oil, gas, and mineral exploration; endangered Arctic species; and increased military operations in the Arctic could cause the region in coming years to become an arena of international cooperation, competition, or conflict. The US, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial political, economic, energy, environmental, and other interests in the region. Decisions that Congress, the executive branch, foreign governments, international organizations, and commercial firms make on Arctic related issues could significantly affect these interests.
Figures: Figure 1. Arctic Area of Alaska as Defined by ARPA; Figure 2. Entire Arctic Area as Defined by ARPA; Figure 3. Arctic Sea Ice Extent in September 2008, Compared with Prospective Shipping Routes and Oil and Gas Resources; Figure 4. Illustrative Map of Arctic SAR Areas in Arctic SAR Agreement Appendixes: Appendix A. Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984 (Title I of P.L. 98-373); Appendix B. P.L. 101-609 of 1990, Amending Arctic Research and Policy Act of 1984; Appendix C. January 2009 Presidential Arctic Policy Directive