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Warming temperatures have reduced the area of frozen sea on the planet to roughly 2.2 million square miles, less than half of what it was four decades ago, suggesting that irreversible and accelerated climate change will be upon us in the coming decades.

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A legal challenge by environmental and indigenous Alaskan groups may dampen Shell Oil's chances of drilling for billions of barrels of oil in the U.S. portion of the Arctic's Chukchi Sea. It's feared the controversial plan could spell disaster for endangered species as well as increase global warming.

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Although Canada and the U.S., among other nations, are disputing Russia's claim to vast territory in the Arctic, Russia has planted its flag on the ocean floor at the North Pole. Why does it matter? Well, some 25 percent of the Earth's oil reserves might be at stake.

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