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Arctic Climate Change

10. Conclusion

  • 10.1 Change Presents Risks and Opportunities
  • 10.2 Potential Surprises
  • 10.3 The Bottom Line

Climate change presents a major and growing challenge to the Arctic and the world as a whole. While the concerns this generates are important now, their implications are even greater for future generations that will bear the consequences of current actions or inaction. Strong rapid action to reduce emissions is required in order to alter the future path of human-induced warming. Action is also needed to begin to adapt to the warming that is already occurring and that will continue. The findings of this first Arctic Climate Impact Assessment provide a scientific basis upon which decision makers can consider, craft, and implement appropriate actions to respond to this important and far-reaching challenge. More...

10.1 Change Presents Risks and Opportunities

The ACIA report shows that climate change is very likely to result in major environmental changes, entailing risks as well as opportunities for the Arctic. For example, while the large reduction in summer sea ice threatens the future of several ice-dependent species, including polar bears and seals, and the peoples that depend upon them, it may also enable the expansion of Arctic shipping routes. More...

10.2 Potential Surprises

Some very likely climate-related changes in the Arctic environment are expected to have major impacts such as decline in sea ice, increase in coastal erosion, and thawing of permafrost. In addition, other changes that are much less likely could have very large impacts and lead to so-called “surprises”. Due to the complexity of the Earth’s climatic system, it is possible that climate change will evolve differently than the gradually changing scenarios used in this assessment. For example, storm intensities and tracks could change in unforeseen ways or temperatures could rise or fall abruptly due to unexpected disturbances of global weather systems. Possible changes in the global thermohaline circulation could also have wide-reaching consequences. Although such changes could cause major impacts, very little information is currently available for considering such possibilities. More...

10.3 The Bottom Line

Despite the fact that a relatively small percentage of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions originate in the Arctic, human-induced changes in Arctic climate are among the largest on Earth. As a consequence, the changes already underway in Arctic landscapes, communities, and unique features provide an early indication for the rest of the world of the environmental and societal significance of global climate change. As this report illustrates, changes in climate and their impacts in the Arctic are already being widely noticed and felt, and they are projected to become much greater. These changes will also reach far beyond the Arctic, affecting global climate, sea level, biodiversity, and many aspects of human social and economic systems. Climate change in the Arctic thus deserves and requires urgent attention by decision makers and the public worldwide. More...

The 10 key findings:

Arctic climate is now warming rapidly and much larger changes are projected. More in 2 ...
Arctic warming and its consequences have worldwide implications. More in 3 ...
Arctic vegetation zones are likely to shift, causing wide-ranging impacts. More in 4 ...
Animal species' diversity, ranges, and distribution will change. More in 5 ...
Many coastal communities and facilities face increasing exposure to storms. More 6.1
Reduced sea ice is very likely to increase marine transport and access to resources. More in 6.2 ...
Thawing ground will disrupt transportation, buildings and other infrastructure. More in 6.3 ...
Indigenous communities are facing major economic and cultural impacts. More in 7.1
Elevated ultraviolet radiation levels will affect people, plants, and animals. More in 7.2
Multiple influences interact to cause impacts to people and ecosystems. More in 7.3

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