Pre­pare for ‘sur­prise’ as global warm­ing stokes Arc­tic shifts: Sci­en­tists

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH -


Un­less the world stops burn­ing fos­sil fuels that are fu­elling global warm­ing, ir­re­versible changes in the Arc­tic could have dis­as­trous ef­fects for the peo­ple that live there and for the rest of the planet, re­searchers warned yes­ter­day.

The Arc­tic’s ecosys­tems are fun­da­men­tally threat­ened by cli­mate change and other hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties, such as oil and gas ex­trac­tion, they said in a re­port for the Arc­tic Coun­cil, an in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal fo­rum work­ing to pro­tect the re­gion’s en­vi­ron­ment. “Arc­tic ecosys­tems are chang­ing in dra­matic ways: the ice is melting, sea lev­els are ris­ing, coastal ar­eas are erod­ing, per­mafrost is thaw­ing, and the ar­eas where plants and an­i­mals live are shift­ing,” said the re­port.

It iden­ti­fies 19 “regime shifts” - mean­ing major, hard-topre­dict tip­ping points - that have hap­pened, or could oc­cur, in the Arc­tic’s land and water. They in­clude a switch to sea-ice free sum­mers and the col­lapse of var­i­ous fish stocks. Those shifts af­fect the sta­bil­ity of the cli­mate and land­scape, the abil­ity of plant and an­i­mal species to sur­vive, and in­dige­nous peo­ples’ sub­sis­tence and ways of life, the re­port added.

The po­ten­tial im­pacts of Arc­tic regime shifts on the rest of the world are “sub­stan­tial”, such as in­flu­enc­ing Asia’s mon­soon, but poorly un­der­stood, it said.

“If mul­ti­ple regime shifts re­in­force each other, the re­sults could be po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic,” Jo­han Rock­strˆm, direc­tor of the Stock­holm Re­silience Cen­tre and co-chair of the five-year study, said in a state­ment. “The va­ri­ety of ef­fects that we could see means that Arc­tic peo­ple and poli­cies must pre­pare for sur­prise. We also ex­pect that some of those changes will desta­bi­lize the regional and global cli­mate, with po­ten­tially major im­pacts.”

Co-edi­tor Marcus Car­son of the Stock­holm En­vi­ron­ment In­sti­tute told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion that in the past six to 12 months, he had heard a lot more “warn­ing bells ring­ing about the Arc­tic and what spill-back ef­fects it might have”. This month, sci­en­tists have said tem­per­a­tures around 20 de­grees Cel­sius above the sea­sonal av­er­age are be­ing reg­is­tered over the Arc­tic Ocean, de­lay­ing the an­nual re­cov­ery of sea ice. — Reuters

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