Arctic Experiencing Unprecedented Levels of Social, Ecological and Environmental Change

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The Arctic is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of social, ecological and environmental change that could threaten the way of life for communities in the polar region and have far-reaching global implications, according to a new report by an international team of scientists.

The Arctic Resilience Report compiled by experts working with the Arctic Council states that the observed rate of change in regards a number of indicators in the Arctic is faster than ever before and is accelerating, threatening the sustainability of ecosystems in the region. The report notes that while some change, including warming temperatures, has a gradual impact, others, such as the collapse of ice sheets, “have the potential to be not only abrupt, but also irreversible.”

“This ground-breaking report, based on direct evidence from case studies across the circumpolar Arctic, is an unprecedented effort to gain insight from what is happening on the ground in the region’s social-ecological systems,” Joel Clement, the Director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the U.S. Department of the Interior and co-chair of the Arctic Resilience Report Project Steering Committee said in a statement.

Human activity — including greenhouse gas emissions, migration, resource extraction, tourism, and shifting political relationships — is the main cause of climate change to the Arctic, according to the report.

“Climate change is severely stressing Arctic livelihoods and people, and the extent to which Arctic people can build resilience to these stresses is quite limited,” Miriam Huitric, a lead author of the report said in a statement.

“Without rapid action to slow climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the resilience of the Arctic will be overwhelmed,” Huitric added.

The report states that the Greenland Ice Sheet was previously believed to be resistant to climate change, but recent observations suggest that “major changes in the dynamics of parts of the ice sheet are occurring over time scales of only years.”

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SOURCE: ABC News, Catherine Thorbecke