Melting of the Arctic is a planetary crisis that requires U.S. leadership and willingness to cooperate
In 1847, a British expedition seeking the fabled Northwest Passage ended in death and ignominy because Sir John Franklin and his crew, seeing themselves as products of the pinnacle of Victorian civilization, were too proud to ask the Inuit for help. At the height of its empire, the United States sometimes sees itself as invincible, too. But the time has come for Washington to get over its isolationist instincts and ratify UNCLOS, cooperate with Canada on managing the Northwest Passage, and propose an imaginative new multilateral Arctic treaty.
Washington must awaken to the broader economic and security implications of climate change. The melting Arctic is the proverbial canary in the coal mine of planetary health and a harbinger of how the warming planet will profoundly affect U.S. national security. Being green is no longer a slogan just for Greenpeace supporters and campus activists; foreign policy hawks must also view the environment as part of the national security calculus. Self-preservation in the face of massive climatic change requires an enlightened, humble, and strategic response. Both liberals and conservatives in the United States must move beyond the tired debate over causation and get on with the important work of mitigation and adaptation by managing the consequences of the great melt.