Arctic Climate Change
What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth, and the world is already feeling the effects.
The Arctic is warming at a rate of almost twice the global average.
Without urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the world will continue to feel the effects of a warming Arctic: rising sea levels, changes in climate and precipitation patterns, increasing severe weather events, and loss of fish stocks, birds and marine mammals.
Why it matters
By 2100, polar bears could face starvation and reproductive failure even in far northern Canada.
Warmer winter temperatures have also increased the layers of ice in snow, making food more difficult to dig up in winter.
Fish stocks in the Barents Sea are moving north at up to 160 kilometres per decade as a result of climate change.
The fish are sensitive to changes in water temperature. This poses a risk for commercial and subsistence fisheries that may see fish resources move away from where they can harvest them. The moving fish also change the ecosystems into which they move.
On the tundra, rising temperatures have brought a new competitor - the Arctic fox’s much larger cousin, the red fox. Not only does the newcomer colonise their dens, it can also kill the smaller Arctic foxes.
In the ocean, both scientists and Inuit say killer whales appear to be increasing in numbers, and in the length of time they stay in the Arctic. Killer whales prey on narwhals and bowhead whales.
With increased shipping comes spill risk (both fuel and cargo), “black carbon” emissions that help to speed the rate of Arctic melting, ship noise that may also affect whales, and icebreaking that can disrupt ice crossing routes for people and animals.
In 2013, a large bulk carrier transited the Northwest Passage for the first time. In 2018, the first cargo ship transited the Arctic north of Russia.
Reduced ice cover is making offshore oil production in the Arctic more commercially viable. In 2014, the first commercial development of offshore oil (Prirazlomnoye) was pumped from Russian Arctic waters.
How we work
WWF brings the effects of climate change in the Arctic to a global audience, and makes the connections between Arctic warming and global impacts.
As Finland's climate warms, the country is seeing less snow cover. WWF is helping the extremely endangered Saimaa ringed sealsfind suitable places to nest by creating man-made snow banks.
WWF is looking at the future management of the "Last Ice Area", the place where summer sea ice is projected to persist longest.
WWF is advocating for renewable energy, and piloting renewable solutions with some Arctic communities.
The Last Ice Area will be essential as an enduring home for ice-dependent life. WWF-Denmark has made a proposal to include the Greenland section of the Last Ice Area on the tentative list for UNESCO world heritage.
The first circumpolar report on walrus conservation recommends research into the effects of industrial activities on the Arctic animals.
WWF supports polar bear surveys using an innovative mark-recapture technique that does not require tranquilising the bears.
WWF works with Students on Ice to provide high school students a first hand experience of the effects of climate change in the Arctic.
Meet the team
Here on the Barents Sea, polar bears are experiencing the fastest loss of sea ice recorded throughout the Arctic.
As climate change reduces the size and duration of summer Arctic sea ice, scientific projections show it will last the longest above Canada and Greenland. This is the Last Ice Area.