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Arctic Warming 5-10 Times Faster Than Once Thought

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    Arctic Warming 5-10 Times Faster Than Once Thought By Jane George Nunatsiaq News via Truthout http://www.nunatsiaq.com/news/nunavut/40910_01.html Friday 10
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 10, 2004
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      Arctic Warming 5-10 Times Faster Than Once Thought
      By Jane George
      Nunatsiaq News via Truthout

      Friday 10 September 2004
      Stopping climate change will be "like trying to put brakes on a supertanker."

      Nuuk, Alaska - A changed world, with robins instead of polar bears, trees instead of tundra and a busy, ice-free shipping lane through the Northwest Passage. A place where sunburn and new diseases are growing hazards and the very core of the Inuit way of life is threatened - that's the scary and stark portrait of tomorrow emerging from an Arctic Council report on climate change in the Arctic.

      The 1,400-page Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, with findings from 250 experts, will be released in Iceland on Nov. 9 at a special symposium to be held before the Arctic Council meets later that month.

      But, last weekend in Nuuk, a gathering of Arctic parliamentarians got a troubling preview of the environmental, health and social impacts that an upward swing of temperatures in the North will cause.

      "It's happening now, and it's been happening for decades, and it has consequences for the whole world," Robert Corell, chair of the ACIA, told the group.

      Corell urged MPs and indigenous leaders from Canada, Denmark, Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden to move out of "the valley of indecision and delay" and convince governments to adopt policies and programs that will help curb the heat-catching greenhouse gases that contribute to warming the earth.

      That task will be "like trying to put brakes on a supertanker."

      No one from the U.S., which supported the Arctic Council's 2000 Barrow Declaration that called for this climate assessment and policy recommendation, was in Nuuk.

      Also absent were any MPs, elected territorial officials, or even bureaucrats from Canada's North, with the exception of Jack Anawak, Canada's new Arctic ambassador.

      But Corell said he feels the U.S. - which may have a new president-elect and a more environmentally-concerned Democratic government by the time the Arctic Council meets in November - will come on board, because the scientific evidence about climate change is now "almost unavoidable."

      Examples of warming trends in the Arctic environment are already numerous: a 15-degree increase in annual winter temperatures in Yakutsk, Siberia, 143 villages threatened by storm surges in Chukotka and Alaska, and thinning ice, glacial melt and shorter, warmer winters throughout the Arctic basin.

      Annual average Arctic temperatures are increasing more rapidly than those elsewhere, up to five to ten times faster.

      Nunavik is already experiencing warming, and Nunavut won't be spared either, according to Corell, even if the weather seems unusually cool in some spots.

      "Extremes are going to go both ways, and that's going to confuse people," Corell said.

      But the five scenarios the ACIA looked at are all in agreement: temperatures are going to rise, particularly in the higher latitudes, as sea ice continues to melt and can no longer deflect heat away from Arctic land and water.

      Impacts on health in the circumpolar world will follow - more accidents due to poor travel conditions, skin rashes, new diseases such as the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, outbreaks of illness related to poor water quality from melting permafrost and contamination from sea water and pollutants.

      Young indigenous communities, such as those in Nunavik and Nunavut, will be the most vulnerable, the ACIA report says.

      In her address to the Conference of Arctic Parliamentarians, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, emphasized the devastating social and cultural impacts of climate change on Inuit, "the human face" of a warmer Arctic.

      The indigenous members of the Arctic Council, which include the ICC, the Aleut International Association, the Gwich'in Council International, the Russian Association of Indigenous Peoples, the Arctic Athabaskan Council and the Saami Council, are calling for action on climate change.

      They want the United Nations to formally recognize the impact of climate change in its Convention on Climate Change and Arctic States to help indigenous peoples "adapt and manage" by equipping them with more power, information and money.

      An Icelandic MP, Thorold Sveinbjarnadottir, urged her fellow parliamentarians to tell their governments to save the Arctic. After listening to the dire information contained in the climate assessment, she said, "No person in this room can now sleep peacefully."

      {To check your local pollution sources, enter your own zipcode}
      Who is Polluting the Canadian Reserves?


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