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One week ago, the Obama administration launched its National Strategy for the Arctic Region, outlining the government's strategic priorities over the next 10 years. The release of the strategy came about a week after the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President at the White House Complex hosted a briefing with international Arctic scientists.
Despite giving lip service to the values of environmental conservation, the new document focuses on how the US can manage the exploitation of the region's vast untapped oil, gas and mineral resources in cooperation with other Arctic powers.
Through the National Strategy for the Arctic Region, we articulate our strategic priorities to
position the United States to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. We will
seek to prioritize and effectively integrate the work of Federal departments and agencies
with activities that are already underway in the State of Alaska and at the international level.
And we will partner with the State of Alaska and Alaska Natives, as well as the international
community and the private sector, to develop innovative solutions and new ways of operating.
Extraordinarily, the document offers just a single sentence acknowledging the potentially destabilising impact of rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice:
"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."
To address such risks, the document promises obliquely that:
"Protecting the unique and changing environment of the Arctic is a central goal of US policy. Supporting actions will promote healthy, sustainable, and resilient ecosystems over the long term, supporting a full range of ecosystem services."