Mom and I got to talking about climate change and I pointed out that the area of the North Pole sea ice is receeding. She was skeptical of the rate of decrease, so I decided to go looking. NOAA’s Arctic Change site has some good facts and pictures. 2002-2005 has seen near record minimums for the amount of North Pole sea ice.
While the melting of the the sea ice would certainly open up shipping lanes between Canada and Russia, it could result in the extinction of polar bears as the Sunday Times and Wall Street Journal reported in December 2005 and the Washington Post reported in 2004, among problems.
The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report has some useful information.