Navy Officials Meet to Plan for Diminished Arctic Ice

Meanwhile, on the East coast, the U.S. Navy is trying to keep tabs on how diminishing Arctic ice will impact future shipping. Monday through Wednesday, high ranking Navy officers, U.S. Coast Guard officials and heads of federal agencies are meeting in Washington, DC for the fourth Symposium on the Impacts of an Ice-Diminishing Arctic on Naval and Maritime Operations.

The biennial symposium is co-hosted by the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and the National Ice Center. Its purpose is to provide an overview of the activities of government agencies that are responding to a more accessible Arctic Ocean. The meeting also serves as a forum for recent scientific research and study reports from panels such as the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment. Although the continued downward trend in Arctic sea ice is concerning scientists, a discussion of the mounting call to have the U.S. sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is high on the agenda.

Former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel says it was a mistake on the part of the U.S. government not to sign the 1984 UN treaty. He says the Arctic will come under a great deal of exploitation because of development, now that melting ice is opening up shipping passages that were blocked for centuries.

Gravel was a delegate to the UN negotiations on the Law of the Sea during the 1970s and is a long time advocate of the law.  He says it’s a misunderstood issue

Gravel was not successful in promoting the Law of the Sea to U.S. government interests in the past. And he says, today’s political climate in Washington, D.C. makes it unlikely that the U.S. Senate will change the federal government’s perspective on the Law of the Sea, given the conservative makeup of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Gravel says all Arctic nations need to get together and appeal to the United Nations to create an environmental regime which would have the power of approval before any exploitation could take place in the Arctic.

Download Audio (MP3)