Arctic thaw brings global consequences

2nd September 2009, Comments 0 comments

The WWF says the most immediate felt change would be on temperature and rainfall in Europe and North America.

Geneva – Global warming in the Arctic could affect a quarter of the world's population through flooding and amplify the wider impact of climate change, a report by environmental group WWF said Wednesday.

Air temperatures in the region have risen by almost twice the global average over the past few decades, according to extracts released by WWF.

"What this report says is that a warming Arctic is much more than a local problem, it's a global problem," said Martin Sommerkorn, senior climate change advisor on the WWF's Arctic Programme.

"Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects," he warned in a statement.

The combination of thawing Arctic sea ice and melting ice sheets in Greenland and West Antarctica was likely to raise global sea levels by about 1.2 metres (four feet) by 2100, more than previously thought, according to scientists commissioned by the WWF for the report.

"The associated flooding of coastal regions will affect more than a quarter of the world's population," the WWF said.

The report concluded that melting sea ice and the release of pockets of greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost and methane seeping from the depths of the warming Arctic Ocean -- would also fuel disruption to atmospheric and ocean currents much further afield.

The most immediate felt change would be on temperature and rainfall in Europe and North America.

More details from the report "Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications" were due to be presented at the UN's World Climate Conference in Geneva Wednesday.

Scientists have expressed concern in recent years about the now visible melting of the Arctic region, to the extent that some have predicted virtually ice free summers this century.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is due at the conference on Thursday, visited Arctic research stations off Norway this week to see the effects of global warming first hand.

World leaders will gather at a UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December to try and seal a new international accord on fighting climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

AFP / Expatica

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