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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

The source document for this Digest states:

Concluding Thoughts

As the scientific results presented in this assessment clearly illustrate, 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 of even greater importance for the future generations that will inherit the legacy of the current actions or inaction. Strong near-term 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 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.

Source & ©: ACIA Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment  (2004),
  Conclusions, Concluding Thoughts, p.124

10.1 Change Presents Risks and Opportunities

The source document for this Digest states:

As this report has shown, climate change is very likely to result in major environmental changes that will present risks as well as opportunities across the Arctic. For example, the large reduction in summer sea ice threatens the future of several ice-dependent species including polar bears and seals, and thus the peoples that depend upon them. On the other hand, potential opportunities are likely to arise from expansion of marine access to resources, population centers, and distant markets via trans-arctic shipping routes.

Source & ©: ACIA Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment  (2004),
  Concluding Thoughts, p.125

10.2 Potential Surprises

The source document for this Digest states:

Some of the climate-related changes in the arctic environment that are most likely to occur are expected to have major impacts; these include the decline in sea ice, the increase in coastal erosion, and the thawing of permafrost. In addition, other concerns emerge from possible outcomes that appear to have only a low likelihood, but the occurrence of which would have very large impacts – so-called “surprises”. Due to the complexity of the Earth 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 and widespread ramifications of such changes provide another example of a potential climate surprise. Although such changes could cause major impacts, very little information is currently available for considering such possibilities.

Source & ©: ACIA Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment  (2004),
  Concluding Thoughts, p.125

10.3 The Bottom Line

The source document for this Digest states:

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 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.

Source & ©: ACIA Impacts of a Warming Arctic: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment  (2004),
  Concluding Thoughts, p.125


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