The Politics of Arctic Sea Ice Loss

Open Access
Behr, Emma S
Area of Honors:
Political Science
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Xun Cao, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Honors Advisor
  • Climate change
  • Arctic
  • Politics
  • International Relations
  • Law of the Sea Treaty
  • Business Interest Groups
This is a qualitative thesis comprised of comparative case studies exploring the reasons why the United States is the only country of the eight Arctic nations which comprise the Arctic Council that has not ratified the United Nations International Law of the Sea Treaty. I have selected cases mostly related to American, Canadian, and Danish environmental policy, Arctic policy, public opinion, and historic records of participation in international laws, organizations, and treaties like the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty, the Arctic Council and the United Nations. I have reviewed cases from 1970 onward because this is the year Canada established a powerful law protecting its Arctic territories and waters and because it was in 1973 that the first United Nations Law of the Sea conference occurred. The units of analysis are three case study countries, the United States, Canada, and Denmark. I control for regime type, geography, levels of civic engagement, and level of education of voters. I have found that across the three countries, levels of public opinion regarding climate change and the Arctic are relatively similar, so the important determining factors are the presence of nonrenewable energy business interest groups as well as the ease with which each regime translates public opinion into legislation and treaty ratification.