The Arctic Region At A Serious Climatic Tipping Point

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The Arctic Resilience Report warns that increasingly rapid melting in the Arctic region could trigger polar ‘tipping points’ with consequences—environmentally and economically—to be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean. This groundbreaking study scientifically concludes the Arctic Resilience Assessment, a project launched by the Swedish Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

Life in the Arctic has always been defined by change and uncertainty. The seasons transform the landscape, the weather is unpredictable and conditions can shift abruptly, sometimes dangerously. Yet the Arctic is now changing at an unprecedented pace, on multiple levels, in ways that affects both people and ecosystems: temperatures here are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, while sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year. There are stories of Indigenous peoples whose livelihoods are disappearing, or whose villages are becoming uninhabitable.

The authors say the warning signals are getting louder, and hope that the insights presented in this report will help Arctic nations to better understand the changes taking place in the region, and contribute to strengthening Arctic people’s capacity to navigate the rapid, turbulent and often unexpected changes they face in the 21st century. Climate tipping points have a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible.

The changes happening in the Arctic today are driven primarily by external factors. Climate change is the most powerful driver of change, but many other environmental changes are taking place as well, alongside rapid social and economic developments. Factors such as resource demand, transportation needs, migration, geopolitical changes and globalisation are combining to make the greatest impact on the Arctic. Consequently, many Arctic social-ecological systems face multiple stressors at once.

Slowing Arctic change and building resilience are crucial for the world, because the Arctic biophysical systems are deeply intertwined with the rest of the planet. Therefore, a rapid, dramatic and unexpected changes in this sensitive region is likely to be felt elsewhere. The theme of the US Arctic Council Chairmanship, ‘One Arctic, Shared Responsibility’, highlights that while the Arctic is unique, ecologically and economically, the international responsibility must be shared and is an integral part of global climate regulation.

This research gives an overview of tools and strategies that can be used to assess and build resilience in the region and considers how the Arctic Council can contribute to those efforts. Interest in the concept of resilience has grown dramatically in recent years, and is featured prominently in the Paris Agreement on climate change, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, among others.

However, the report comes at a critical time politically, as the US president-elect, Donald Trump, has unveiled plans to remove the budget for climate change science to spend it instead on space exploration.

Photo Credit: Artic Council