A ringed seal pup finds shelter on ice. Ringed seals, like many Arctic mammals, depend on sea ice to survive – ice that is swiftly disappearing. (Photo: Ringed Seal via Shutterstock)
As world leaders meet at the COP21 climate conference in Paris, we would do well to turn our eyes northward. The impacts of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) are nowhere as evident as they are in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising at least twice as fast as the average global temperature increase.
The most obvious ramification of this has taken the form of dramatically milder winters in the far north, coupled with temperature increases in the waters of the Arctic Ocean – both of which are dramatically increasing the melting of the sea ice, which is leaving more of the water’s surface exposed, thus allowing more heat to reach the ocean during the summer. This process is likely the most well-known and most important feedback loop in ACD today – and because of it, land ice and permafrost in the Arctic are melting at a record pace.
Despite the remoteness of the Arctic, the region is deeply linked to the rest of the planet: Everything from our weather, to coastal flooding, to what we eat is tied to the Arc tic and the events that are rapidly changing it.