Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

We Are Failing to Protect the Arctic From the Climate Crisis, Report Card Shows

Climate
The melting of Greenland alone, pictured above, has risen sea levels by about 0.7 millimeters a year. MB Photography / Moment / Getty Images

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 14th annual Arctic Report Card Tuesday, and the results are grim.


The average land temperature between October 2018 and August 2019 was the second-warmest on record since 1900, sea ice extent at the end of the summer was at its second lowest since satellite observations began and the Greenland ice sheet melted at rates that rivaled the record melt year of 2012.

"If I had gotten a report card like this as a kid, I would have been grounded," Dr. Donald Perovich, a professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College who led the writing of the sea ice chapter, told The New York Times. "It's not showing much improvement at all. Things are getting worse."

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and this has major consequences for the ecosystems and indigenous communities it supports, as well as for the whole Earth. That is why NOAA produces the report card every year. This year's efforts combined the expertise of 81 scientists from 12 countries, according to a NOAA press release.

"The speed and trajectory of the changes sweeping the Arctic, many occurring faster than anticipated, makes NOAA's continued investment in Arctic research and activities all the more important," Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere at NOAA Timothy Gallaudet said in the release.

The report shone a special light on the Bering Sea, which suffered from record low winter sea ice in both 2018 and 2019, InsideClimate News reported. This makes it harder for the more than 70 indigenous communities that call the region home to sustain themselves, according to an essay by the Bering Sea Elders Group, included in the report. Less sea ice makes hunting and fishing more difficult.

"The way that the lower 48 relies on, say, citrus or grapes or the potato as garden food sources, the Bering Sea, when the sea ice comes, it is our garden," Bering Sea Elders Group member Mellisa Johnson told The New York Times. "It is our way of life."

At the same time, melting permafrost is causing sinkholes, and the lack of sea ice makes storm surges more intense. This puts homes and other structures at risk, the elders wrote.

But the thawing permafrost isn't just a local problem. Scientists have long worried that the carbon stored in the permafrost could release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere as it melts, The Washington Post explained. There is almost twice the amount of carbon stored in Arctic soil as there are greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. It won't all be released just yet, but the report suggests that the Arctic has now become a net emitter of greenhouse gasses. The region's permafrost could be emitting between 1.1 billion to 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, roughly equivalent to Japan or Russia's 2018 emissions.

Ted Schuur, a Northern Arizona University researcher who wrote the chapter on permafrost, said that the Arctic's permafrost emissions were equal to less than 10 percent of what is released by the burning of fossil fuels every year, but any new source of carbon dioxide makes lowering emissions more difficult.

"We've crossed the zero line," he told The Washington Post.

Another global concern is sea level rise. Between 2002 and 2019, the melting of Greenland alone has risen sea levels by about 0.7 millimeters a year, the report found.

Fisheries are also changing. As Bering Sea ice melts, Arctic fish like Pacific Cod migrate farther north and southern species like northern rock sole move in.

"This is a big change to the ecosystem," NOAA Fisheries research biologist Lyle Britt told The Washington Post.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Shawna Foo

Anyone who's tending a garden right now knows what extreme heat can do to plants. Heat is also a concern for an important form of underwater gardening: growing corals and "outplanting," or transplanting them to restore damaged reefs.

Read More Show Less
Malte Mueller / Getty Images

By David Korten

Our present course puts humans on track to be among the species that expire in Earth's ongoing sixth mass extinction. In my conversations with thoughtful people, I am finding increasing acceptance of this horrific premise.

Read More Show Less
Women sort potatoes in the Andes Mountains near Cusco Peru on July 7, 2014. Thomas O'Neill / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Alejandro Argumedo

August 9 is the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples – a celebration of the uniqueness of the traditions of Quechua, Huli, Zapotec, and thousands of other cultures, but also of the universality of potatoes, bananas, beans, and the rest of the foods that nourish the world. These crops did not arise out of thin air. They were domesticated over thousands of years, and continue to be nurtured, by Indigenous people. On this day we give thanks to these cultures for the diversity of our food.

Read More Show Less
A sand tiger shark swims over the USS Tarpon in Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Tane Casserley / NOAA

By John R. Platt

Here at The Revelator, we love a good shark story.

The problem is, there aren't all that many good shark stories. According to recent research, sharks and their relatives represent one of the world's most imperiled groups of species. Of the more than 1,250 known species of sharks, skates, rays and chimeras — collectively known as chondrichthyan fishes — at least a quarter are threatened with extinction.

Read More Show Less
The Anderson Community Group. Left to right, Caroline Laur, Anita Foust, the Rev. Bryon Shoffner, and Bill Compton, came together to fight for environmental justice in their community. Anderson Community Group

By Isabella Garcia

On Thanksgiving Day 2019, right after Caroline Laur had finished giving thanks for her home, a neighbor at church told her that a company had submitted permit requests to build an asphalt plant in their community. The plans indicated the plant would be 250 feet from Laur's backdoor.

Read More Show Less
Berber woman cooks traditional flatbread using an earthen oven in her mud-walled village home located near the historic village of Ait Benhaddou in Morocco, Africa on Jan. 4, 2016. Creative Touch Imaging Ltd. /NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Danielle Nierenberg and Jason Flatt

The world's Indigenous Peoples face severe and disproportionate rates of food insecurity. While Indigenous Peoples comprise 5 percent of the world's population, they account for 15 percent of the world's poor, according to the World Health Organization.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Danny Choo / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Olivia Sullivan

One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.

Read More Show Less