Global warming has been a topic of great discourse since the late 1970s and now more than ever, we are seeing its impacts. Although Earth as a whole has been affected, the Arctic is currently receiving the brunt of the force. Over the past few years, the climate of the Arctic has been changing so rapidly that scientists may have to redefine what an “Arctic-like” climate actually means. Not only does global warming within the
To begin, glaciers in the Arctic account for about 68.7% of the world’s freshwater, and that percentage is steadily decreasing each year. This is due to the fact that the glaciers are thawing at an increasing rate, and all of the runoff is entering the sea. As a result, the freshwater is now mixing with the seawater, and thus can no longer be used as drinking water. While this also depletes our freshwater sources, it also imbalances the concentration of salt within our oceans, as the oceans become diluted. This can also affect organisms that are only able to inhabit
waters of certain salt concentrations.
A young women protesting at a climate change strike in Germany.
Photo by: Marcus Markus Spiseke
In addition, glaciers help reduce the amount of heat that is received from the sun. Glaciers reflect the incoming rays as a result of its light colour. However, as the glaciers thaw and more dark-coloured sea water is revealed, more sun rays are being absorbed and converted into thermal energy instead of being reflected. This process is heating the arctic, causing more glaciers to melt, and revealing more dark-coloured sea water. This is known as a positive feedback loop. The output or results of the loop magnifies the effect of the loop more and more each iteration. Another example of the positive feedback loop occurring in the Arctic is the thawing of permafrost. As the permafrost thaws, carbon stored in the permafrost is being released back into the atmosphere. As more carbon is released, it causes global temperatures to also increase, which subsequently thaws the permafrost.
Furthermore, the changing of weather conditions is ultimately regulated by the differences in temperatures between different areas of the world. This temperature difference causes jet streams, or air currents to move around. These jet streams can convey different weather conditions to different parts of the world. Since the climate in the Arctic is becoming warmer and milder, there is less of a temperature difference, causing weather conditions to stay in place for a longer time period. It is especially harmful when these weather conditions are extreme, such as snowstorms, droughts, or rainstorms.
Finally, not only is the warming of the Arctic harming our planet, but it is also heavily damaging our economy worldwide. The thawing permafrost is causing damage to structures in northern areas such as Alaska. Since their roads, highways, and pipelines are built and situated on permafrost, they are now breaking apart as their foundation slowly melts away. As mentioned above, there will be a lot more extreme weather conditions in the future, which can also be very costly. For instance, severe snowstorms and prolonged periods of cold weather can cause energy prices to increase in the area affected. Droughts can cause wildfires, and prolonged rainfall can cause floods, both of which are very costly to recover from. Likewise, it is said by Science Daily that the effects of the warming Arctic could possibly cost the world multi-trillion dollars. The cutting of carbon emissions is a huge contributor to the cost, as other types of energy sources would have to be established in order to replace those that emit carbon.
(Photo taken by Alto Crew)
Although climate change is impacting everyone around the globe, its impacts on the Arctic poses the greatest threat to the safety and wellbeing of both the planet and the inhabitants of the planet. However, through unity, we are able to prevent the state of the Arctic from worsening while also repairing and reversing the damage that has been done. Groups like YCAC spread awareness and encourage youth to take matters into their own hands. You can do your share by educating peers and living sustainably.
6, Renee Cho December, et al. “How the Warming Arctic Affects Us All.” State of the Planet, Columbia University, 2 Jan. 2013, blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2012/12/06/how-the-warming-arctic-affects-us-all/.
“Arctic Transitioning to a New Climate State.” ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, 14 Sept. 2020, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200914112232.htm.
Ice, Snow, and Glaciers and the Water Cycle, USGS, www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/ice-snow-and-glaciers-and-water-cycle?qt-science_center_objects=0.
Kelly, Cathleen. “Why a Melting Arctic Could Sink the Global Economy.” Center for American Progress, 19 Mar. 2014, 10:39, www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2014/03/19/85967/why-a-melting-arctic-could-sink-the-global-economy/.
“Report: Flooded Future: Global Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise Worse than Previously Understood.” Climate Central, Climate Central, 29 Oct. 2019, www.climatecentral.org/news/report-flooded-future-global-vulnerability-to-sea-level-rise-worse-than-previously-understood.
Whiteman, Gail. “What the Melting Arctic Means for the World's Economy.” Greenbiz, 13 Aug. 2013, www.greenbiz.com/article/what-melting-arctic-means-worlds-economy.