the last several decades, and with a climate that is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, the Arctic is “Ground Zero” of Climate Change¹,². At the rate of warming that is currently taking place, some scientists now believe that the Arctic could be ice-free during the summer months by the year 2030³. Such changes in the Arctic will have major impacts on the climate, weather, sea levels, ecosystems, and species in the rest of the world.
How arctic climate affects the rest of the world
- Global sea level rise
- Melting arctic permafrost releases greenhouse gases
- The global jet stream is stalling
The swing of the jet stream is also increasing, facilitating the cooler Arctic air to reach further south and warm air to reach further north. The result is the record-breaking temperatures that we are seeing so commonly today⁶.
- Large freshwater influxes
Such increased amounts of freshwater could theoretically negatively impact the thermohaline circulation, the ocean “conveyor belt” that brings warmer water from the equator north to the poles, brings cold dense polar water south to the equator, and maintains temperature balances around the world⁷.
- Wildlife, marine life and global songbird impacts, phytoplankton blooms
If the migrating songbirds are negatively impacted in the Arctic, their populations may decline around the rest of the world during the rest of the year. This would have a major impact on many different ecosystems worldwide, as these songbirds play a vital role in insect control, seed dispersal and pollination, and are food for a variety of predators⁸.
As Arctic water warms, the phytoplankton is blooming earlier during the year than it used to⁹. Such blooms are likely to have impacts throughout the food chain. The ocean waters are absorbing more CO2, making the ocean more acidic, negatively impacting marine organisms that have calcium carbonate-based shells and skeletons. Warmer ocean waters are bringing marine life such as killer whales, humpbacks, blue and gray whales further north than they were once able to due to the previously presence of sea ice. Migratory invasive species are also beginning to invade the region, displacing some Arctic species.
- Potential positive effects of a warming arctic
However, the opening up of travel routes and passage in the Arctic is also likely to increase oil and gas exploration in the region. This could discourage the development and use of alternative energy sources and increase the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere even more, as well as presenting an increased risk of oceanic pollution from oil spills.