We very rarely ever consider the importance of the Arctic; there’s no land, its extent isn’t often recognised on world maps and it seems almost entirely inhospitable. However, it is undergoing a dramatic transformation that will have critical consequences for all of us around the world.
Environmentally, the Arctic is a unique region. On the surface, there is little plant life due to the lack of soils available and a limited number of animal species that are specialised to live in one of the most extreme environments on this planet. There is a lot more life in the Arctic ocean that is able to thrive due to the lack of human influence.
However, as temperatures around the world rise, the Arctic environment will encounter a dramatic shift as the amount of ice cover begins to drop. Flora and fauna that have been typically found at lower latitudes will become increasingly common, forcing Arctic species to become better adapted to their new conditions.
But there is also a new and emerging economic and political importance to the Arctic region as sea ice melts away. Receding ice opens up opportunities for fishing, resource extraction and new trade routes that would otherwise not possible without being incredibly costly. Given that the Arctic is just an oceanic region with little land, countries are laying claims to areas with tensions beginning to rise.
The Changing Arctic Landscape
The Arctic region is the most rapidly warming regions in the world — at almost twice the global average. Since the 1970s, the average temperature of the Arctic has increased by 2.3℃ and peaked last year with temperatures in the Arctic Circle exceeding 30℃ on a number of occasions. Forest fires that were extremely rare before are becoming increasingly common in a region that should almost never reach temperatures to allow it.
Due to the rapidly rising temperatures, sea ice is also retreating quicker than it ever has done in the past. The current rate of melting is approximately six times faster than it was less than 40 years ago and by 2036, summers are expected to be…