US Military Responds To Arctic Ocean Melting: Polar Ice Melting Prompts US Military To Protect New Waterways [Maps]

 @David_Kashi
on January 13 2014 11:07 AM
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Adelie penguins stand atop ice in East Antarctica. Reuters

The U.S. lacks “operational experience” in the Arctic region and is conducting a review for a new strategy set to be released in the coming weeks to address the demands of an increase in commercial traffic, oil and gas exploration and tourism have created new demands , according to a new document from U.S Navy.

The Wall Street Journal reported Mondaythat it had reviewed a draft of the document.

Today, the region has become increasingly important as new sea lanes have opened during Arctic summers, thanks to record high temperatures that melt the sea ice.

The Arctic region is the land and sea area north of the Arctic Circle. The United States, because of Alaska, is an Arctic country. The four other Arctic coastal states are Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark's vast autonomous territory of Greenland.

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Here are some of the consequences of the Arctic's sea ice melting, according to U.S. Coast Guard:

* Shipping and transit increased by 118 percent through the Bering Strait from 2008 to 2012

* 1 million tourists now may visit the region in 2013

* 1 million tons of cargos were shipped in 2012 through the region

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The Arctic Ocean and its floor are rich in natural resources, and the Arctic countries are vying for a stake in the abundance of crude oil, natural gas and various minerals located there.

The region holds approximately 12 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas and natural gas liquids. It also holds $1 trillion worth of minerals, such as nickel and zinc.

Since 2005, $3.7 billion in commercial investments have been made in offshore leases, and the amount of exploration and investment in the region is likely to rise as ice continues to melt. But the melting ice and opening of sea lanes could destabilize the Arctic region as countries like the U.S. and Russia may dispute claims to sea areas that were unreachable before.

Back in November, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s released the Pentagon’s new Arctic Strategy.

“The Arctic is at a crucial point in its transformation from a relatively isolated region to one where receding ice is enabling increased human access,” Hagel said in a statement. “As climate change and the viability of new energy sources shape the global environment, these shifts will affect our strategic outlook going forward, especially in the Arctic.”

Speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, Hagel said the Arctic needs to be secure and stable where U.S. “national interests are safeguarded, the U.S. homeland is protected, and nations work cooperatively to address challenges.”

Hagel’s announcement of a new Arctic Strategy builds on President Barack Obama’s National Strategy for the Arctic Region released in May.[[nid:1440354]]

The development of Arctic oil and gas is part of a “broader energy security strategy, including our economic, environmental and climate policy objectives,” according to the May 2013 White House document.

Obama’s 2013 arctic strategy built on a 2009 national security directive issued at the end of the Bush administration, which, among other points, discussed “national security and homeland security interests in the Arctic.” The directive established a new U.S. policy for the Arctic region.

In 2010 Obama’s National Security Strategy outlined the U.S. interests in the Arctic.

“The United States is an Arctic nation with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic region, where we seek to meet our national security needs, protect the environment, responsibly manage resources, account for indigenous communities, support scientific research, and strengthen international cooperation on a wide range of issues,” according to the 2010 strategy.

The DoD’s new strategy follows Obama’s ambitious goal to slash U.S. greenhouse gas output by 17 percent (compared to 2005 levels) by 2020. 

“We are beginning to think about and plan for how our Naval fleet and other capabilities and assets will need to adapt to the evolving shifts and requirements in the region,” Hagel

The United States has a national interest in preserving all of the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace recognized under international law. The Department will preserve the global mobility of United States military and civilian vessels and aircraft throughout the Arctic, including through the exercise of the Freedom of Navigation program to challenge excessive maritime claims asserted by other Arctic States when necessary.

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