The Arctic is melting faster than anyone predicted. The World Meteorological Organization announced that ice melt in the Arctic reached a new record in 2012 when an area of ice larger than the continental United States vanished between the months of March and September. The seasonal thaw contributed to a new record in regional shipping as well, with more vessels than ever hauling cargo between Europe and Asia across the top of the world. And international energy companies spent record time searching for oil and gas beneath the frigid waters. But in spite of these trends, the Arctic probably won’t become a bustling hub of commercial activity anytime soon. Setting realistic expectations for the region will pay dividends to U.S. policymakers charged with figuring out how to protect America’s Arctic interests.
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