GOP senator: Arctic Ocean may be ice-free in summer within 20 years

Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanTrump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (R-Alaska) on Thursday said the U.S. must prepare for an Arctic Ocean that is ice-free in the summer months within the next 20 years. 

Sullivan, speaking at a hearing for the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, which he chairs, pointed to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicating that as of 2011, Arctic sea ice was "42 percent thinner than it was in 1979."

"If this trend continues, the Arctic Ocean may be ice-free during the summer months within the next 20 years," he said.

“It therefore behooves our federal government ... to fully focus on preparing for this new eventuality," Sullivan added.


Sullivan also noted that the closest deepwater port to the Arctic Circle is "nearly 1,000 miles away," something he described as a "chief concern."

“One chief concern among these challenges is the lack of a deepwater port within close enough proximity to serve as a staging area for search and rescue, pollution response, environmental concerns and arctic security operations," he said.

Sullivan's comments came during a hearing on maritime transportation in the Arctic.

A federal report released last month painted a dire picture of the effects of climate change and warned that current efforts to address the problem will not be enough.

Updated at 1:36 p.m.