Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Arctic Solutions: Glacial Progress

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Arctic Solutions: Glacial Progress

Article excerpt

Byline: UNF Political Science class

While Santa is on many people's minds during this holiday season, there is a more urgent reason to think about the North Pole - Rudolph the reindeer is losing his home as the Arctic ice melts.

Over the last four decades, 40 percent of the Arctic's ice has disappeared. By 2030, the Arctic will be navigable most of the summer months, opening up trillions of minerals, oil, natural gas and faster sea lanes. Yet our own Arctic policy is moving at a glacial pace.

During our recent trip to Washington, our UNF Political Science class presented a series of recommendations to officials, urging bolder policies toward the Arctic.

The U.S., an Arctic nation, has vast environmental, economic and strategic interests in the region. As Floridians, we are the Americans most at risk of the rising sea levels.

The United States must protect our economic interests in the Arctic; yet we lack the infrastructure to do so.

As current chair of the Arctic Council, the United States is working well with the other seven members, including Russia.

But Russia is leading the charge to grab these new economic opportunities, rebuilding military bases, and deploying a large fleet of icebreakers.

During our trip, we were able to sit down face-to-face with Arctic Circle experts and engage in discussions relative to international cooperation, sustainable development, and military engagement.

We applaud President Barack Obama's recent action banning all offshore oil drilling in the waters near northern Alaska. But much more needs to be done.

THREE POLICY SUGGESTIONS

First, we must enact stronger measures to protect the Arctic environment beyond Alaska. We should seek to declare the Arctic as a World Heritage Site in areas outside Arctic nations' sovereignty, enabling current populations to thrive while protecting the region.

We should also establish more Marine Protected Areas, enact stricter safety regulations on all vessels transiting the region, and require all vessels to be powered by cleaner liquefied natural gas.

While perhaps more difficult under the new administration, it is imperative we enhance the Paris Climate Change Agreement. …

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