The Circle

The Climate Crisis: There's No Going Back

© WWF-US / Chris Conner

THE SCIENCE OF SEA ICE

In this issue

In our climate issue, we highlight the importance of climate action now - for the Arctic and the entire planet.

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Features

Jessie Lindsay, NMFS MMPA Permit No. 19309.

Retreating sea ice threatens Indigenous way of life

Climate change is not only affecting the health of many Arctic species—it is also having an impact on the people and communities that depend on them to survive. A new study shows that a decline in sea ice has severely curtailed the length of the seal-hunting season in northern Alaska, threatening the communities that have depended on these marine mammals for food and clothing for generations.

Tom Arnbom

Let's keep it frozen

Thawing permafrost is already making things difficult for people and species in the Arctic. But as TOM ARNBOM writes, if thawing continues and causes the release of methane from the ground, the climate crisis will escalate dramatically and we will feel the effects globally.

In-depth

Peter Prokosch / www.grida.no/resources/3921

Responding to rapid Arctic climate change: Is the future cancelled for lack of interest?

SEA ICE determines much of the nature of life in and around the Arctic Ocean. Research published this year by Nature demonstrated how historic changes in ice conditions in the channel between Greenland and northernmost Nunavut, Canada were linked not only to biological productivity and abundance of species in the area immediately south, but also to the very presence of people in Greenland.

WWF / Richard Stonehouse

One last chance to avoid climate catastrophe

What is COP26? The Conference of the Parties, or COP, is an annual meeting of the 197 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The talks are hosted every year by a different country with the aim of advancing global efforts to address climate change. The first COP meeting was held in Berlin, Germany in 1995. This year, the 26th conference (COP26) will take place in Glasgow from November 1 to 12, a year later than planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Paris Agreement resulted from COP21 in 2015. The agreement sets out targets to limit global temperature increases to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Peter Prokosch, www.grida.no/resources/4188

Harnessing the power of ocean-climate solutions

From melting sea ice and thawing permafrost to coastal erosion, the devastating consequences of climate change are playing out in marine ecosystems and coastal communities across the Arctic. But as PETER WINSOR writes, the Arctic Ocean can play a key role in addressing these consequences, not only by moderating the global climate, but by providing food, livelihoods and cultural identities for many people along with options for ecosystem-based adaptation. Conserving ecosystems in an ocean affected by rapid climate change will not only safeguard Arctic biodiversity, but support the resilience of the people who depend on these ecosystems.

National Park Service / goodfreephotos.com

Don’t drain the swamp! Arctic wetlands threatened by climate change and human impacts

Effective stewardship of Arctic wetlands, including conservation and restoration efforts, has enormous potential to buy the world time by contributing to climate mitigation and adaptation. A new circumpolar report and recommendations adopted by the Arctic Council Ministerial in Reykjavik, Iceland, highlight the importance of Arctic wetlands. As MARCUS CARSON explains, the report also identifies actions to support the conservation and restoration of wetlands.

Trevor Donald

Plans are just the start: Sub-Arctic communities need a whole-of-society approach to carry them out

Nearly three years ago, the Town of Churchill, a municipality in northern Manitoba, Canada, lost its only land connection to southern Canada when record flooding washed out portions of the 400 kilometre railway track leading to Hudson Bay. Infrastructure damaging events like this are becoming more frequent and intense. As TREVOR DONALD explains, communities in northern Canada cannot be expected to live with the continued impacts of thawing permafrost. And they need more than just adaptation plans: they need an integrated approach to implement them so events like this don’t happen in the future.

Peter Ewins / WWF-Canada

Looking to Indigenous communities for their knowledge

As the climate warms, wildfires across the Arctic are surging. For example, extreme heat this summer in Russia led to more than 6 million hectares (15 million acres) of land being scorched in Siberia. The fires were so big that smoke reached Alaska.

Heïdi Sevestre

Everything is at risk: Rapidly changing climate threatens Arctic ecosystems, food supplies, infrastructure, transportation and livelihoods

As WWF has frequently documented in its reports and web content in recent years, the Arctic is warming more quickly than any other region on Earth—and Indigenous People are experiencing major impacts from the many climate-related changes that continue to occur there. JANET PAWLAK highlights the findings of a recent report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP). Spoiler alert: No aspect of life in this region is unaffected by increasing temperatures and their impacts on ice, snow, permafrost and ecosystems.

Christoph Strässler, CC, Flickr.com

WWF’s Arctic Conservation Forecast Initiative: Staying one step ahead of climate change

For decades, saving the magnificent salmon of Alaska’s Pacific Northwest has meant protecting Bristol Bay. But as PETER CHRISTIE explains, the climate crisis is making conservation more difficult—and forcing the salmon to look elsewhere.

A conversation between Saami youth climate activist and Belgian royalty

Indigenous climate activist MARTINA FJÄLLBERG and Belgium’s PRINCESS ESMERALDA may be from different countries, backgrounds and generations, but they have one thing in common: their passion for protecting the environment.

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The Circle is a magazine produced by the WWF Global Arctic Programme. Our goal is to inform decision-makers, scientists and the interested public about Arctic environmental and development issues.
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