Late-forming sea ice exposed Shishmaref
to erosion during a 2004 fall storm
Shishmaref Relocation Coalition
As a weather forecast, the latest international climate report predicts a hot, violent future that will distribute suffering across the globe.
The coming meltdown will undercut the lives of people and wildlife in the Far North, forcing communities to consider multi-million-dollar fixes and certain species to struggle with existence as habitats shrink, according to a new report released Friday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
But the whole planet will reel under unprecedented stress — heat waves, droughts, floods, hunger, dying species, disappearing glaciers and an ocean that grows ever more acidic. By 2050, some 200 million people could be displaced by rising sea levels. Some 40 species of animals and plants could be gone forever.
Adapting to rising temperatures and environmental damage will cost billions. And it’s the poorest countries that will suffer most — as well as Native people who gather food for subsistence across the Arctic.
Still, not all changes will directly trigger catastrophe in fast-warming world. Rising temperatures could ease cold-weather hazards. Some regions could see longer growing seasons. Losing ice in the Arctic Ocean may allow more shipping, though the prospect is far more problematic than a sound bite implies.
A 23-page summary of Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability — presented to world media in Brussels on Friday morning — is the second wave from Climate Change 2007, the fourth assessment by the IPCC on the science and impact of global warming.
The first summary for Climate Change 2007, released in February, called evidence of global warming “unequivocal” and rated human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases “very likely” the main driver in the Earth’s fast changing climate. See
This time, scientists concentrated on the impacts to human communities and natural ecosystems.
“In the Polar Regions, the main projected biophysical effects are reductions in thickness and extent of glaciers and ice sheets, and changes in natural ecosystems with detrimental effects on many organisms including migratory birds, mammals and higher predators,” the report states. “In the Arctic, additional impacts include reductions in the extent of sea ice and permafrost, increased coastal erosion, and an increase in the depth of permafrost
For Arctic human communities, impacts, particularly resulting from changing snow and ice conditions, are projected to be mixed. Detrimental impacts would include those on infrastructure and traditional indigenous ways of life.
- Sizzling Details
- CO2 hit 379 PPM in 2005 versus 300 PPM peak over 650,000 years
- Average global temp rose 1 to 2 degrees F during 20th century
- Sea level rose 4 to 8 inches in 20th century
- Since 2000, temperature rise has sped up
- 11 of past 12 years are warmest since 1850
- Sea level may rise another 7 to 23 inches by 2099
- The ocean is getting warmer as deep as 9,800 feet
- 80 percent of heat is absorbed by the sea
Beneficial impacts would include reduced heating costs and more navigable northern sea routes.
In both polar regions, specific ecosystems and habitats are projected to be vulnerable, as climatic barriers to species’ invasions are lowered.
Already Arctic human communities are adapting to climate change, but both external and internal stressors challenge their adaptive capacities. Despite the resilience shown historically by Arctic indigenous communities, some traditional ways of life are being threatened and substantial investments are needed to adapt or re-locate physical structures and communities.