The words ‘North pole’ often conjure up images of Eskimos, magical northern lights and polar bears. Widely regarded as a mythical land, the Arctic seems too far away and remote, but this could not be further from the truth. The Arctic and its unique ecosystem are intricately tied to life on the rest of our planet and as the region warms at a rate of almost twice the global average, here are ten reasons why it affects us all:
1) Shiny ice and snow reflect a high proportion of the sun’s energy into space. As the Arctic loses snow and ice, bare rock and water absorb more and more of the sun’s energy, making it ever warmer and sparking the ‘albedo effect’.
2) As snow and ice melt, the ability of the Arctic to reflect heat back to space is reduced, accelerating the overall rate of global warming.
3) Some Arctic fisheries will likely disappear, not only impacting export economies of Norway and Russia but the supply of your favourite salmon or trout too!
4) Glaciers, sea ice and tundra will melt, contributing to global sea level rise. Do you know that 13 out of 15 of the world’s largest cities lie in coastal plains making them particularly vulnerable to rises in sea level?
5) A warmer Arctic could halt the Gulf Stream, which brings warmer water and weather to north-western Europe.
6) Due to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the world’s oceans are 30% more acidic now than before the industrial revolution. Cold oceans, like those in the Arctic, are acidifying twice as fast as average impacting coral reefs, shellfish and plankton to name a few.
7) The Arctic is estimated to hold the world’s largest remaining untapped gas reserves. To keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius and steer the world away from climate catastrophe, two-thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves must stay in the ground (International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2012) and protecting the Arctic from drilling is essential to achieve this objective- and preserve its delicate ecosystem.
8) With its fantastic wildlife, pristine landscapes and unique local cultures, the Arctic is a much-desired tourist destination. However, climate change could affect all of these elements depriving future generations of witnessing the Arctic biodiversity and its splendor.
9) While Santa Claus may be fictional, the Arctic is home to 4 million people and they need your support as climate change changes life, as they know it, affecting economic, cultural and environmental practices.
10) We all love Polar bears but do you know that the time bears have on the ice is their best season – hunting seals and fish is easy, and they restore their body fat and fitness. But this crucial time is becoming dangerously limited. As the periods without food lengthen, the overall body condition of polar bears is declining. In Hudson Bay, scientists have found the main cause of death in cubs to be either lack of food or lack of fat on nursing mothers.