"The diminishment of Arctic sea ice has led to increased human activities in the Arctic, and has heightened interest in, and concerns about, the region's future. The United States, by virtue of Alaska, is an Arctic country and has substantial interests in the region. [...] Record low extents of Arctic sea ice over the past decade have focused scientific and policy attention on links to global climate change and projected ice-free seasons in the Arctic within decades. These changes have potential consequences for weather in the United States, access to mineral and biological resources in the Arctic, the economies and cultures of peoples in the region, and national security. [...] The diminishment of Arctic ice could lead in coming years to increased commercial shipping on two trans-Arctic sea routes--the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. [...] Changes to the Arctic brought about by warming temperatures will likely allow more exploration for oil, gas, and minerals. [...] Increased oil and gas exploration and tourism (cruise ships) in the Arctic increase the risk of pollution in the region. [...] 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. U.S. military forces, particularly the Navy and Coast Guard, have begun to pay more attention to the region in their planning and operations."
CRS Report for Congress, R41153
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html