"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. The United States held the two-year, rotating chairmanship of the Arctic Council from April 24, 2015, to May 11, 2017. 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 five Arctic coastal states--the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (of which Greenland is a territory)--have made or are in the process of preparing submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf regarding the outer limits of their extended continental shelves. The Russian submission includes the underwater Lomonosov Ridge, a feature that spans a considerable distance across the center of Arctic Ocean. The diminishment of Arctic ice could lead in coming years to increased commercial shipping on two trans-Arctic sea routes--the Northern Sea Route close to Russia, and the Northwest Passage--though the rate of increase in the use of these routes might not be as great as sometimes anticipated in press accounts. International guidelines for ships operating in Arctic waters have been recently updated."
CRS Report for Congress, R41153
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html