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White House Releases National Strategy for the Arctic Region

031000-N-XXXXB-001The White House Office of the Press Secretary has just issued a statement announcing the release of a National Strategy for the Arctic Region.  The strategy includes significant attention to the role climate change plays in regional security and cooperation. Specifically, the strategy outlines the “lines of effort” as: 1. Advance United States Security Interests, 2. Pursue Responsible Arctic Region Stewardship, 3. Strengthen International Cooperation. Attention to climate change risks is strewn throughout the document. Here are some notable excerpts:

Even as we work domestically and internationally to minimize the effects of climate change, the effects are already apparent in the Arctic. Ocean resources are more readily accessible as sea ice diminishes, but thawing ground is threatening communities as well as hindering land-based activities, including access to resources. Diminishing land and sea ice is altering ecosystems and the services they provide. As an Arctic nation, the United States must be proactive and disciplined in addressing changing regional conditions and in developing adaptive strategies to protect its interests. An undisciplined approach to exploring new opportunities in this frontier could result in significant harm to the region, to our national security interests, and to the global good…

The U.S. approach to the Arctic region must reflect our values as a nation and as a member of the global community. We will approach holistically our interests in promoting safety and security, advancing economic and energy development, protecting the environment, addressing climate change and respecting the needs of indigenous communities and Arctic state interests…

For all of the opportunities emerging with the increasing accessibility and economic and strategic interests in the Arctic, the opening and rapid development of the Arctic region presents very real challenges. On the environmental front, reduced sea ice is having an immediate impact on indigenous populations as well as on fish and wildlife. Moreover, there may be potentially profound environmental consequences of continued ocean warming and Arctic ice melt. These consequences include altering the climate of lower latitudes, risking the stability of Greenland’s ice sheet, and accelerating the thawing of the Arctic permafrost in which large quantities of methane – a potent driver of climate change – as well as pollutants such as mercury are stored. Uncoordinated development – and the consequent increase in pollution such as emissions of black carbon or other substances from fossil fuel combustion – could have unintended consequences on climate trends, fragile ecosystems, and Arctic communities. It is imperative that the United States proactively establish national priorities and objectives for the Arctic region…

The United States in the Arctic will assess and monitor the status of ecosystems and the risks of climate change and other stressors to prepare for and respond effectively to environmental challenges…

The United States takes the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015. Having a National Strategy for the Arctic Region in place is important for responsible engagement and leadership in the region. The full strategy is available here. And here is the statement from the White House Office of the Press Secretary.

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