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Cold Case

Cold CaseScott Borgerson, a graduate of The Fletcher School and a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, is pushing for increased focus on the Arctic.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [10.12.07] While he won't actually visit the region for the first time until this spring, Scott Borgerson is emerging as a go-to expert on Arctic affairs. According to the Fletcher School graduate, the effects of global warming there have widespread geopolitical impact, and the United States needs to take the lead in addressing the issue.

"It's in the U.S.'s hard-core realistic interests to take this up," Borgerson (F'06), an international fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations specializing in Arctic affairs, told The Day (Conn.). "But at the moment, we have very minimal leadership on this issue."

Borgerson is examining what increased access to the Arctic Ocean means for foreign policy and global and domestic shipping networks. His work has been attracting significant notice, with op-ed articles in publications such as The New York Times and interviews by National Public Radio, PBS and other broadcast outlets.

Climate change in the Arctic is drawing attention not only because the ice melt there represents what many say is one of the most glaring indicators of global warming, but because the phenomenon could open the Arctic Ocean to increased shipping, mining and drilling operations.

It also exposes the Arctic to conflicting ownership claims from countries such as Russia, Canada and various Scandinavian nations-a debate, Borgerson says, from which the U.S. has remained conspicuously absent, despite its own claims via the Alaskan coast. Borgerson says that the situation in the Arctic presents an opportunity for nations to come together and address the effects of global warming in an environmentally responsible and diplomatic fashion.

"No one wins if this becomes a Wild West up there," he told The Day.

Borgerson is advocating for the U.S. to learn more about the scientific and political issues at play, revisit the Law of the Sea treaty on underwater territory claims it helped write but has not ratified, and sponsor an international Arctic summit to discuss the fate of the region.

"Scott's a good guy to be leading the charge," Bill Brubaker, a former colleague of Borgerson's from the Coast Guard Academy and currently a professor of maritime law at the University of Connecticut, told The Day. "He's extremely bright, driven, and a man of immense good will with an incredible amount of energy and a lot of charisma."

He also has a broad range of experience. Prior to joining the Council on Foreign Relations, Borgerson was a professor of political geography, foreign policy and maritime studies at the Coast Guard Academy and director of its Institute for Leadership.

Borgerson graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1997, completing service in the Caribbean and Louisiana bayou. His assignments, ranging from major drug busts to repatriating migrants at Guantanamo Bay, made him consider the broader impact of those actions on U.S. immigration, foreign policy and diplomacy.

Borgerson delved deeper into these issues at The Fletcher School, where he studied U.S. maritime history and foreign policy and received a master of arts in law and diplomacy (MALD) in 2003 and a Ph.D in 2006. While at Fletcher, he also received an inaugural fellowship in the school's Maritime Studies Program. During this time, Borgerson was a professor of political geography, foreign policy and maritime studies at the Coast Guard Academy and director of its Institute for Leadership.

It was his coursework at The Fletcher School relating to foreign policy issues in the Arctic that opened Borgerson's eyes to the region. As he researched the impact of rapid ice melt and the opening of new shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean, Borgerson told The Day, he realized that global warming in the Arctic had major geopolitical consequences that the U.S. was not prepared for.

Frustrated by the lack of resources the Coast Guard had to deal with climate change in the Arctic, he authored an op-ed for The New York Times in 2005 criticizing what he viewed as the lackadaisical U.S. policy toward the region, an action that ruffled some feathers given his status with the Coast Guard. That prompted him to leave the service and join the Council on Foreign Relations, where his work gains an influential forum.

"The Arctic has never been more on the world's radar screen," he told The Day.

Borgerson is also a part-time teacher of graduate-level courses in maritime history, Arctic issues and U.S. foreign policy at Columbia University and co-principal of Rhumb Line LLC, a maritime and geopolitical issue consulting firm he co-founded with current Fletcher Ph.D. student Rockford Weitz.

Throughout his current work, Borgerson's Coast Guard experience continues to be relevant, providing real-world perspective on the key issues he now examines as a member of the high-profile think tank.

"I like to get my hands dirty," he told The Day, "but I also love ideas and scholarship."

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