Global Warming and the Arctic
The world’s climate is changing. On average, the temperature on the Earth’s surface has increased by 0.6°C (1°F) over the last two centuries. Most of the warming observed in the past 50 years is attributed to human activities and particularly to the burning of fossil fuels. Information on past climatic conditions obtained from ice cores and other sources shows that the current increase in global temperatures goes beyond natural climate variability. In the Arctic, average temperatures have risen almost twice as fast as in the rest of the world and climate changes are particularly intense. Changes in the Arctic climate will also affect the rest of the world through increased global warming and rising sea levels.
The Arctic region is the area around the North Pole, essentially an ocean surrounded by land. In the far north, the Arctic is mostly covered by snow and ice, whereas the southernmost part is covered by boreal forests. In between, there is a wide expanse of tundra. The Arctic is home to an array of plants, animals, and people that survive in some of the most extreme conditions on the planet and that are uniquely adapted to such conditions. Climate change, pollution, and growing resource use are factors that put an increasing pressure on fragile Arctic populations and ecosystems. The Arctic region is home to almost four million people, including an increasing majority of non-indigenous settlers. The Arctic includes Greenland, Iceland, and the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Russia, and the United States. Economically, the region depends largely on natural resources, ranging from oil, gas, and metal ores to fish, reindeer and birds. Recently, the tourism sector has also grown in many parts of the Arctic.
Evidence of the recent warming of the Arctic is provided by: records of increasing temperatures; melting glaciers, sea ice, and permafrost; and rising sea levels. Global temperatures are expected to...