Welcome to the ‘New Arctic’: The Region ‘As We Once Knew It Is No More’
By Andy Rowell
For many people in the Northern Hemisphere who celebrate Christmas, the iconic image is one of snow or a Santa Claus driving a sleigh through the snow driven by reindeer.
Depending on which version of the Santa Claus story you read, his home is in the Arctic, possibly at the North Pole. Images of snowy Santas will adorn many holiday cards sent this year.
But as the Christmas images stay the same, the Arctic itself is rapidly changing. Scientists now talk of the "Old Arctic" as the one we once knew and the "New Arctic" as the one being fundamentally transformed by climate change.
The report continues that, despite relatively cool summer temperatures, the region has reached a new normal, characterized by "long-term losses in the extent and thickness of the sea ice cover, the extent and duration of the winter snow cover and the mass of ice in the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic glaciers, and warming sea surface and permafrost temperature."
This is not good news. Writing about NOAA's findings in Grist, the meteorologist Eric Holthaus said that what the scientists are telling us is that "The Arctic as we once knew it is no more."
Holthaus reports on a press conference to release the report, where acting NOAA Administrator Timothy Gallaudet outlined why we should all be concerned: Because the warming Arctic is affecting weather patterns worldwide. "What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic—it affects the rest of the planet," said Gallaudet.
Last week, Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA's Arctic Program, added that the changes are happening so fast that "there is no normal. That's what so strange about what's happening in the Arctic. The environment is changing so quickly in such a short amount of time that we can't quite get a handle on what this new state is going to look like."
"Whether they be wildfires out in California or hurricanes down in the Gulf we have to think about the impacts that changes in the Arctic are having on those disruptive climate events," said Mathis.
While the warming Arctic affects us all, it will affect the Inuit the most. Last month, the New York Times reported that "lost ice means lost hope for an Inuit village."
Reporting from Rigolet, Labrador in Canada, the article says, "The Inuit have a word for changes they are seeing to their environment: uggianaqtuq. It means 'to behave strangely.' But it is not just the weather that's in turmoil."
The Times quoted Ashlee Cunsolo, a public health researcher and director of the Labrador Institute of Memorial University, who has been studying the link between climate change and mental health.
Cunsolo and her team found that "melted ice, shorter winters and unpredictable weather made people feel trapped, depressed, stressed and anxious, and in some cases, led to increased risk of substance abuse and suicidal thoughts."
"All humans, whether we want to admit it or not, are impacted by the natural environment," Cunsolo told the Times.
And the lesson from the Arctic is that what happens in the region will affect us all. It is worth remembering that if or when you open an Christmas card with Santa on it.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Oil Change International.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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