Today, President Obama issued an Executive Order to help coordinate Arctic-related activities across the Federal Government and enhance collaboration with State, local, and Alaska Native tribal governments and similar Alaska Native organizations, academic and research institutions, and the private and nonprofit sectors.
The Arctic region provides critical ecological, cultural, and economic services to our Nation. Arctic-based activities that advance the national interest range from defense and security, to maritime safety; to environmental stewardship; the promotion of science and research, and more.
But we know based on decades of rigorous scientific research that climate change is causing the Alaskan Arctic to warm twice as rapidly as the rest of the United States – and that climate change will continue to transform the Arctic in the future as its consequences grow more severe. Dramatic seasonal reduction in Arctic sea ice, widespread glacier retreat, acidifying oceans, earlier spring snowmelt, and thawing permafrost are changing the ways people can access, live, and work in this remote region.
At the same time, there are significant changes in the social, economic, and political landscapes across the Arctic. Many Northern communities are keen to protect and sustain their unique cultures and relationship with the land and ocean, but they also recognize the need to embrace economic opportunities to support improvements in their wellbeing. We are interested in working with these communities to explore new opportunities for economic development while protecting the region that is their home and the core of their cultural heritage.
The United States has a responsibility to strengthen international cooperation in the Arctic, mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change, better understand and manage the impacts of climate change in this region, develop and manage resources responsibly, and serve as stewards for valuable and vulnerable ecosystems.
In doing so, our Nation must rely on the best available science to support sound decision making while also incorporating the valuable traditional knowledge of native inhabitants. That’s why the Executive Order issued today establishes an Arctic Executive Steering Committee that will serve as a coordinating mechanism on Federal Arctic activities and facilitate cohesive guidance to Departments and agencies on this critically important topic. The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Dr. John P. Holdren, will Chair the Committee.
OSTP looks forward to continuing its work with collaborators within and outside Government to apply the best scientific information, data, and tools to support stewardship, preparedness, and long-term sustainability in the Arctic region.
To learn more about the Administration’s priorities and activities in the Arctic region, please visit:
Tamara Dickinson is Principal Assistant Director for Environment & Energy at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy
Patricia Falcone is Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy