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  3. Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress; Feb. 7,

The five Arctic coastal states — the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and De nm ark of which Greenland is a territory — are in the process of preparing Arctic territorial claims for submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The Russian claim to the enormous underwater Lomonosov Ridge, if accepted, would reportedly grant Russia nearly one- half of the Arctic area.

There are also four other unresolved Arctic territorial disputes. The diminishment of Arctic ice coidd lead in coming years to increased commercial shipping on two trans-Arctic sea routes — the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. Current international guidelines for ships operating in Arctic waters are being updated.

Changes to the Arctic brought about by warming temperatures will likely allow more exploration for oil, gas, and minerals.

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Warming that causes permafrost to melt could pose challenges to onshore exploration activities. Increased oil and gas exploration and tourism cruise ships in the Arctic increase the risk of pollution in the region. Cleaning up oil spills in ice-covered waters will be more difficult than in other areas, primarily because effective strategies have yet to be developed. Large commercial fisheries exist in the Arctic.

The United States is currently meeting with other countries regarding the management of Arctic fish stocks. Changes in the Arctic could affect threatened and endangered species.


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Under the Endangered Species Act, the polar bear was listed as threatened on May 15, Arctic climate change is also expected to affect the economies, health, and cultures of Arctic indigenous peoples. On May 12, , representatives from the member states of the Arctic Council signed an agreement on cooperation on search and rescue in the Arctic.

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Although there is significant international cooperation on Arctic issues, the Arctic is increasingly being viewed by some observers as a potential emerging security issue. Some of the Arctic coastal states, particularly Russia, have announced an intention or taken actions to enhance their military presences in the high north. Special Representative for the Arctic 1 1 U. 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 or competition.

The United States, 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. This book provides an overview of Arctic-related background information and issues.

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress; Feb. 7,

For more information, click here or click the "Get Permission" button below to link directly to this book on Copyright Clearance Center's website. Buck, M. House of Representatives;pp.

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