Monday, November 08, 2004

There's never been a better time to move North

Despite the ignorance of a few (world leaders), global warming does exist.

Since the end of the last ice age (about 11,000 to 6,000 ago in North
America), scientists believe that the earth is in a natural state of
warming. However, scientists also believe that human activity is
pushing the natural warming rate far beyond its natural boundaries -
hence human-instigated climate change.

It has long been suspected that the polar regions are most
dramatically affected by climate change. In an article today in the
Globe and Mail (written by the Canadian Press), all our suspicions are
found to be true:


Global warming worst in Arctic, report says

Edmonton - A comprehensive scientific study of the Arctic climate has
confirmed that the North is melting, and faster all the time.

The four-year study produced by 250 scientists from eight circumpolar
countries and released on Monday concludes that global warming is
affecting the Arctic more heavily than any other region on earth.

"Earth's climate is changing, with the global temperature now rising
at a rate unprecedented in the experience of modern human society,"
the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report says. "These climate
changes are being experienced particularly intensely in the Arctic."

The long-awaited report, to be discussed at this month's meeting in
Iceland of the eight-country Arctic Council, lists 10 key findings:

- The average Arctic temperature has increased twice as much as that
of the rest of the world over the past few decades, likely bringing
heavier precipitation, shorter and warmer winters and much reduced
snow and ice cover that will last centuries.

- Arctic climatic changes will affect the rest of the world, as the
melting of highly reflective snow and ice increases the overall heat
absorption of the planet and glacial meltwater raises the sea levels
and disrupts ocean currents.

- The treeline will move northward.

- Habitat for marine animals will shrink, threatening some species
such as polar bears with extinction by the end of the century, while
other species will move north. Arctic fisheries may become more

- Coastal communities will face increasing erosion from heavier storm
seasons and melting permafrost.

- Reduced sea ice could lead to heavier marine traffic and increased
access to some resources.

- Thawing permafrost will damage northern roads, buildings and infrastructure.

- Aboriginal lifestyles will face major economic and cultural adjustments.

- Increased ultraviolet radiation will affect people, animals and
plants, with the current Arctic generation expected to receive about
30 per cent more UV than their mothers and fathers.

- Climate change is occurring in a context of increasing chemical
pollution, land overuse and population increases.

The report is full of alarming statistics.

Temperatures in Canada's western Arctic have already increased by
three to four degrees Celsius over the past 50 years, with larger
increases projected. Snow cover across the Arctic has decreased by
about 10 per cent over the last three decades, with another 10-to-20
per cent decline expected.

Permafrost has warmed up by two degrees, and to an increasing depth.
The southern permafrost limit is expected to shift northward by
hundreds of kilometres this century.

The past 30 years has seen sea ice decline by 15 to 20 per cent -
equivalent to an area almost the size of Ontario. The area of melting
of the Greenland ice cap surpassed all previous records last year, and
Alaskan glaciers have retreated so rapidly that they make up about
half the glacier melting for the entire world.

Despite the attention likely to be focused on the report, little of it
will come as a surprise to the Inuvialuit, Dene and Inuit of Canada's

From Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories, where melting
permafrost is washing a community into the ocean, to Baffin Island,
where elders can no longer predict weather or follow ancient hunting
routes, they are already living with climate change.

The member countries of the Arctic Council - Canada, the United
States, Russia, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Iceland - will
officially receive the report on Tuesday at their meeting in

The council's official response is expected on Nov. 24.

Most climate scientists believe global warming is at least hastened by
the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are produced in the burning of
fossil fuels, the source of about 80 per cent of the world's energy.


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