Mar 14, 2019
A new United Nations report warns that winter temperatures in the Arctic are still "locked in" to rise 3-5degC by 2050 and 5-9degC by 2080--with devastating consequences for the region and global sea levels--even if the international community cuts planet-warming emissions in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
Global Linkages: A Graphic Look at the Changing Arctic (pdf) features maps and graphics about climate change, pollution prevention, and biodiversity conservation in the region. While the visual aids have an Arctic focus, they draw connections between what happens in the Arctic and the rest of the world.
\u201cEven if the world were to cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, winter temperatures in the Arctic would rise \n\n3-5\u00b0C by 2050 & \n\n5-9\u00b0C by 2080\n\ndevastating the region & unleashing sea level rises worldwide. #UNEA4 #ClimateAction https://t.co/6PBVgT3KWv\u201d— UN Environment Programme (@UN Environment Programme) 1552560669
The report was prepared by U.N. Environment (UNEP) and the Norwegian foundation GRID-Arendal, in close consultation with the Arctic Council. It is a product of the UNEP's Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), a comprehensive assessment released Wednesday, as U.N. Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) is held in Nairobi, Kenya.
Both Global Linkages and the GEO-6 underscore the vital importance of policymakers pursuing a coordinated global effort to drive down greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). As the report points out, "even if we stopped all emissions overnight, winter temperatures in the Arctic will still increase by 4 to 5degC compared to the late twentieth century."
While human-generated GHGs boost temperatures on a global scale, warming occurs faster in the Arctic. That's because of a phenomenon called Arctic or polar amplification--which, the report explains, "causes higher temperatures near the poles compared to the planetary average because of a combination of feedback processes."
Rising temperatures, along with ocean acidification, pollution, and thawing permafrost threaten the Arctic--and the more than four million people who inhabit it, including 10 percent who are Indigenous. But, as UNEP acting executive director Joyce Msuya noted Wednesday, "What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic."
Elaborating, Msuya said: "We have the science; now more urgent climate action is needed to steer away from tipping points that could be even worse for our planet than we first thought."
These worrisome tipping points include the thawing of permafrost, or ground that traps carbon as long as it remains frozen. Comparing permafrost thaw to awakening a "sleeping giant," the report warns that the process "could release large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere and derail efforts to meet the long-term goal of the Paris agreement."
In addition to demanding that world leaders work together to meet the Paris agreement's goals, the report also calls for various locally focused efforts, including: adaptation that integrates and respects local and Indigenous knowledge; strengthening global mechanisms to prevent chemical and plastic pollution in the region; international coordination to protect migratory species; and further research that examines climate change, pollution, and biodiversity in the Arctic.
Politicians, experts, and activists responded to the report with both alarm and renewed demands for rapidly reforming unsustainable human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, that lead to global warming:
\u201cTRIGGER WARNING ON CLIMATE NEWS (see below)\n\nnew UN report says we're "locked in" for 3-5 degrees celcius warming in arctic. my god looks like parts are on track for 12 degrees by 2100. green new deal is an imperative to save civilization. new report: https://t.co/FiGeKLKME0\u201d— Pete Sikora (@Pete Sikora) 1552582136
\u201cNew study: if we stop emissions immediately, Arctic still warms 5C/9F by century's end. We're not stopping global warming any more; we're fighting like hell for a level that civilizations might survive. #ClimateStrike https://t.co/tTzD7E7mFo\u201d— Bill McKibben (@Bill McKibben) 1552567377
\u201c"Sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3-5C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse emissions in line with the Paris agreement"\n\nWe can't avoid calamity, but we can avoid extinction. \n\n#XRBerlin\n\nhttps://t.co/CHCklTqiif\u201d— Extinction Rebellion Berlin (@Extinction Rebellion Berlin) 1552509622
\u201cWinters expected to warm by 5-9 C before the century ends. Think about that for a moment. The region will be devastated. The permafrost-carbon feedback will help force global avg temp past 2 C warming. Urgent action is needed.\n\nhttps://t.co/SvH2s9DDTs\u201d— Michael Rawlins (@Michael Rawlins) 1552575577
"The urgency to achieve the goals of the Paris agreement is clearly manifested in the Arctic, because it is one of the most vulnerable and rapidly changing regions in the world," Finland's environmental minister Kimmo Tiilikainen said in a statement. "We need to make substantial near-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, black carbon, and other so-called short-lived climate pollutants all over the world."
Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.