Rising temperatures and reduced sea ice are creating an uncertain future for the Arctic, an area of some 5.4 million square miles—almost one and a half times the size of the United States. More than 4.2 million people live in the Arctic region . This number is projected to grow substantially in the coming years. Climatic shifts are spurring changes in the demand for natural resources, transportation routes, economic development, and demographics in the Arctic.
Although the possibility of armed conflict is not viewed as a serious possibility by most observers, tensions are evident among the “Arctic Eight”—Russia, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Canada, and Denmark (Greenland). Russia, for example, has warned that countries could be at war within a decade over resources in the Arctic region.The dramatic changes coming to the Arctic, however, also offer major opportunities to develop mutually beneficial collaborative relationships to manage new challenges.