Arctic Voyage Highlights Less Sea Ice Due to a Warming Climate

Climate change is affecting the Arctic region and the Indigenous peoples who live there

Last month, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy left Seward, Alaska to start an Arctic voyage through the famed Northwest Passage, a sea route that winds among islands north of mainland Canada and connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  

Healy route on a map

As we wrote in an earlier blog, the warming climate has reduced the extent and thickness of summertime sea, making it easier for vessels to travel through these Arctic waters.

Shortly before Healy left Seward, I was fortunate to host a Zoom chat with two retired Coast Guard officials—both experts on maritime Arctic issues about Healy’s trip and some of the most pressing issues confronting the maritime Arctic today: 

  • Roger Rufe, Vice Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (retired): During a career in the U.S. Coast Guard that spanned more than three decades, Roger Rufe served as a captain of five Coast Guard cutters. He also commanded the 17th Coast Guard District in Alaska, overseeing operations in the U.S. Arctic. After his Coast Guard career, Roger served as President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy. Currently, Roger is a fellow at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Arctic Study and Policy. 
  • Lawson Brigham, Captain, U.S. Coast Guard (retired): In the course of his career with the Coast Guard, Lawson Brigham commanded four cutters, including the heavy icebreaker Polar Sea on missions in the Arctic and Antarctic. Lawson chaired the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment from 2004 to 2009. Like Roger, Lawson is a fellow at the Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Arctic Study and Policy.

You can learn more by watching our video where Roger and Lawson explain what Healy is doing in Arctic waters, discuss how climate change is affecting the region and the Indigenous peoples who live there, describe how Arctic sea ice is changing and talk about some of the other issues affecting the region.

Want to do more to protect the Arctic?  

Join us in telling the Coast Guard to lead the way on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ship traffic at the International Maritime Organization and to better prepare for climate-related changes here at home. The comment period closes October 6, so take action now! 

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