The Arctic region is undergoing rapid environmental and socioeconomic change. As one of the most rapidly warming places on the planet, the Arctic is experiencing dramatic climate change-related impacts, such as a severe downward trend in sea ice cover. The scientific community projects that this trend could result in a sea ice-free summer by as early as 2020. As conditions warm, the retreat of sea ice is driving an expansion of political and economic activity. Recent world media attention has been focused on the Arctic to an unprecedented extent. Much of the discourse has been devoted to a perceived Arctic “scramble” or “gold rush” for jurisdictional rights and marine resources, especially potential seabed energy resources. This “race” was highlighted by the Russian Federation planting a flag on the seabed of the North Pole in August 2007. Also exciting considerable attention is the possibility of the opening up of long-sought navigational routes through the Arctic Ocean.
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