Given the receding sea ice in the Arctic, and increased interest in developing its resources, what do we need to know more about?

Rate the options below.

The Arctic is currently changing in ways we are still trying to grasp, but it is already dramatically, undeniably different than it was just 30 years ago. The white cover of sea ice that blankets the Arctic is receding dramatically in the summer months. Satellite data show the September minimum has shrunk by more than 11 percent per decade since 1979, researchers say.

As the volume and frequency of open water in the Arctic grows, so too does activity by oil and gas, shipping, mining, and other industries. Ship transit through the Bering Strait, the gateway from the North Pacific Ocean to the Arctic, more than doubled between 2008 and 2012, and sea traffic throughout the region continues to grow exponentially as it provides a shorter cargo route between Asia and Europe. At the same time, several companies seek to mine reserves that could contain as much as 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered conventional oil and gas. (See related video: Experts use three words to describe the Arctic at The Arctic: The Science of Change live event.)

The Arctic: The Science of Change
Learn more about the issues surrounding a changing region.

Questions, too, are mounting along with the activity. The Arctic nations—the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark (including Greenland), Norway, Iceland, Finland, and Sweden—now face unprecedented dilemmas over resource development, ecosystems protection, emergency response infrastructure, geopolitical boundaries, and many other effects of a changing northern climate.

Amid all these facets of the transforming Arctic, which of these areas do you think needs the most attention? What should we all be focusing on? Rate the options below and share your thoughts in the comments.

Issue 1

Industry plans for development in the Arctic

Where are companies preparing to drill for oil and gas, how do they propose to execute their plans, and who is monitoring this activity?

Issue 2

Safety technologies for energy development and oil spill clean-up

What provisions have been put in place by industry and governments to prevent accidents and to address spills when they happen in this challenging environment?

Issue 3

Conservation needs for marine mammals, wildlife, and ecosystems

Do we need to delineate protected areas in the Arctic? What other measures do we need to take to minimize the impact on ecosystems as human activity escalates?

Issue 4

Observation-based knowledge of indigenous populations

The communities that have existed for thousands of years have knowledge and traditions that not only demand preservation but also can inform future generations about the region. What are their perspectives, and are they being adequately included in the conversation?

Issue 5

National and international governance

What international boundaries are in place in the Arctic, and what remains to be determined regarding nations’ rights and responsibilities?

Issue 6

Emergency response capability

How do we ensure that we have the equipment, infrastructure, and experienced responders that will be needed when mishaps occur, particularly in harsh weather?


  1. James Schmidt
    Milton, MA
    October 20, 5:01 pm

    Arctic sea ice has rebounded dramatically from its 2012 low; the National Geographic shamefully conceals this in its text and graphics. Solving our energy problems requires an honest an objective assessment of where we are.

  2. David French
    Elgin, Scotland
    July 2, 5:47 pm

    Sign the petition to join the millions who believe in protecting the Arctic.
    Save the Arctic dot org

  3. Afia Twumasi
    Bilbao Spain
    March 11, 7:28 am

    Yes, nuclear power is safer. But do we really ensure and guarantee that safety? We can just look back to see some of the disasters that have been created. How can something be safe if it is safe now but will eventually have effect on the environment. We need the evidence of this so called safety.
    And l agree with John Tunner. No permission should be given until all the mess has been cleared up not only to the US but to all of these nations involved.

  4. darimont
    February 27, 3:25 pm

    Entièrement d’accord avec le commentaire de Paul Roth….
    Mais la question est: puisque l’on va continuer à polluer,de toute
    façon, c’est inévitable,: 1 mètre cube d’eau, est-il préférable à un
    mètre cube d’air pollués? A votre avis ? Lequel des deux est plus facile a dépolluer?….

  5. Paul Roth
    St. Charles, ID
    February 13, 10:21 pm

    Every method of making energy available comes with risks. Nuclear power is safer and cleaner than burning fossil fuels. Yes, there are concerns for the disposal of nuclear waste, but there are several well-researched, safe solutions to nuclear waste disposal. A hospital patient undergoing a single routine barium swallow test receives a higher dose of radiation than living a lifetime at the site boundary of a nuclear power plant.

  6. John Tanner
    Idaho Falls
    February 13, 4:28 pm

    Drilling in Arctic areas controlled by the US should not be permitted before cleanup technology is satisfactorily demonstrated.

  7. Eugene Preston
    Austin, Texas
    February 1, 10:49 pm

    I see no discussion on the nuclear issue. This is most likely because Shell does not want to discuss the greatest threat to fossil fuels, which is nuclear energy.