Pan European Networks - Horizon 2020 - page 158

will disappear – at least, it will be possible to
sail around … the northern part of Greenland
within a couple of decades in the summer.
“This does give us some new opportunities, and
we do know that by having less sea ice,
particularly in the summer, we have some
increased maritime transport opportunities. By
having less ice and snow, we also have
increased opportunities to look for oil and gas
and perhaps explore some of the minerals that
are found in the ground.
“There is also an opportunity for creating better
and deeper ports … that will lead to an
increase in opportunity in tourists coming to the
region. Unfortunately, that also means there are
some additional risks in terms of loss of both
habitat and species, in terms of pollution,
ecosystem degradation from overuse, and …
invasive species, as well.”
Dirty ocean
Wilkie then turned her attention to the Arctic
waters and the changes that are being
witnessed in regards to acidification and carbon
dioxide levels. She said that both animals and
humans would feel the negative effects.
“The CO
2
level in the atmosphere and
oceans is going up, which means that the pH
is going down.
“This has an impact particularly on those
animals that are building shells. So where the
impact is most heavily felt in the tropics, you
would also see that there is an impact in the
oceans around the Arctic.
“We also have increased vulnerability. We have
… [recently] recorded the second lowest
pressure that has ever been experienced and
[which] dumped some seven feet of snow on
Buffalo, New York. We do have an increased
number of storms and severity. We also have a
sea level rise, as predicted from climate change.”
The UNEP director said that these two instances
are “having a severe impact on coastal
C
limate change is having a particularly detrimental effect on the
Arctic. Whilst global temperatures have risen by 0.6°C over
the last 200 years, the effects of such increases are
exacerbated in this cold northern region, particularly in the winter
months. Experts predict that average annual temperatures will rise by
3-7°C over the next century.
Environmentally, scientists also expect to see a continued decline in sea
ice cover, helping further increase global warming as less solar radiation
is reflected back from Earth. Furthermore, the area of Arctic land covered
by snow is expected to decrease by up to 20%.
Such stark implications present many new challenges, and possibly new
opportunities, to the Arctic and surrounding countries; both humans and
animals will need to adapt to this altering environment. Yet with joint
action, there is the chance to both stem the pace of change and
successfully adjust to this new landscape.
New prospects
To explore the Arctic environment in more detail, Portal travelled to the
Norwegian city of Trondheim in December 2014 to attend the Arctic
Biodiversity Congress. Addressing delegates, Mette Wilkie, director of the
Environmental Policy Implementation Division at the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP), detailed the major challenges facing
Arctic biodiversity. She began by setting out the detrimental and wide-
ranging impact of climate change linked to human activities and
suggested some of the opportunities that the changes present.
“We have seen that the temperature rise in the Arctic is about twice as
fast as the global average, and we have indications that the summer ice
I S S U E S I X
H O R I Z O N 2 0 2 0 P R O J E C T S : P O R TA L
158
S O C I E TA L C H A L L E N G E S : E N V I R O N M E N T
A new Arctic
Attending a major Arctic conference,
Portal
carries the thoughts of UNEP’s
Mette Wilkie,
who explored the challenges and opportunities presented by
the effects of Man and climate change
The Arctic landscape
is changing
beyond recognition
© NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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