Retired Navy officers to discuss implications of melting Arctic ice sheet

March 26, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.  (March 26, 2015) – Two Penn State experts and retired high-ranking U.S. Navy officers will discuss the critical global policy and environmental issues resulting from the melting Arctic ice sheet at a talk on April 15 on Penn State’s University Park campus.

The Mythical Northwest Passage Comes to Be: Discussion of the Arctic, the U.S., and the Law of the Sea” features Ret. Vice Admiral James W. Houck, interim dean of Penn State Law, and Ret. Rear Admiral David W. Titley, professor from practice in the Department of Meteorology. The event, which is free and open to the public, begins at 1 p.m. in 301D Life Sciences Building and will be followed by a reception in the Life Sciences Bridge.

The Arctic ice sheet is receding at a historically high rate and opening up access to areas of the Arctic that were historically difficult to reach. The National Snow & Ice Data Center recently reported that the maximum extent of ice in the Arctic is at the lowest level seen since the satellite record began in 1981. As the ice decreases, new shipping routes are opening, including the once-mythical “Northwest Passage.” Previously unreachable minerals and fossil fuels are becoming accessible. Just this month, Russia began military maneuvers in the Arctic; others have been making plans for accessing this area as well. 

Houck and Titley will explore these dynamics and address key questions:

·         How could diplomatic instruments such as the Arctic Council help address the situation?

·         What are the opportunities and challenges for the United States, which assumed the 2015-2017 chairmanship of the Arctic Council, in formulating multinational rules for the new land?

·         What are the implications of this emerging dynamic on the current international legal framework, such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea?

This discussion is co-sponsored by the Climate Change and Conflict Management Reinvention Fund Project of Penn State’s Sustainability Institute and The Polar Center. For additional information, please contact Lara B. Fowler, lbf10@psu.edu or 814-865-4806.

About James W. Houck

James W. Houck is interim dean and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Penn State Law and a retired U.S. Navy Vice Admiral. Houck focuses his research and teaching on international law and national security law, with a particular emphasis on the law of the sea and the law of armed conflict. He joined Penn State in 2012 after retiring as the 41st judge advocate general of the U.S. Navy, during which time he was the principal military legal counsel to the secretary of the Navy and chief of Naval Operations. In this role, he led the 2,300 attorneys, enlisted legal staff, and civilian employees of the worldwide Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  

About David W. Titley

David Titley is professor of practice in the Department of Meteorology, and the founding director of the Penn State Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk. He previously served as chief operating offer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 2012 to 2013. Before assuming these positions, he was a rear admiral in, and chief oceanographer of, the U.S. Navy, where he served for 32 years. He also initiated the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change and serves on the CNA’s Military Advisory Board. 

Last Updated July 22, 2015