Special issue on the Arctic: After the ice

As the Arctic thaws, can science help to chart a sustainable path for the north? Published online 12 October 2011 | Nature 478, 171 (2011) | doi:10.1038/478171a

Special issue on the Arctic

After the ice - The Arctic is changing fast. In September 2011, the extent of summer sea ice was either a new record low or tied with the low of 2007, depending on how you crunch the data. Ships are plying the newly opened waters, oil companies are increasing their exploration, locals are developing their mineable resources, and scientists are scrambling to study the changing environment and promote its sustainable development. Nature investigates the state of science at the new northern frontier. - Keenpress/National Geographic Stock

Last winter, parts of the Canadian Arctic basked in record-breaking warmth. In the town of Coral Harbour, at the mouth of Hudson Bay, temperatures rose above freezing for a few days in January for the first time ever. Across the Arctic, extreme climate conditions are becoming the norm, even as the region faces other profound changes, such as the growing political power of indigenous peoples and the race to extract mineral resources (see page 172).

This week, Nature examines how these changes are affecting scientific access to the north (see page 174), and what scientists should do to keep Arctic development green (see page 179) and peaceful (see page 180). Some are calling for international regulations to safeguard the environment as ship traffic increases (see page 157). Both research and development need to consider the views of local peoples, and scientists are learning how to do so (see page 182). Locals can provide insight into environmental changes; scientists might help them to be heard.

More (Click here) (Editorial and Introduction)

More (Click here) (After the ice – listing of special articles)

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2 Responses to Special issue on the Arctic: After the ice

  1. I endorse this focus on the actual effects of climate change. A significant problem associated with the battle against it is that it’s hard for humans to conceptualize such a complex, sweeping concept as gradual atmospheric change. Experts can explain the science over and over, but I doubt we’ll see results until people realize that climate change is something that could actually have lasting consequences for them directly. That said, this year’s extreme weather broke countless records, and still climate science deniers abound.

    I think the rhetorical side of the climate fight might be strengthened by an increased focus on the human side of things–for instance, stories of individuals who have been displaced by climate change. This makes good sense when you consider the findings of behavioral psychology–in particular, the fact that we tend to empathize more with an individual’s suffering than with that of large groups.

    • Alan Burke says:

      Have a look at:

      The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis (pdf, 3.3 MB)
      The Geneva-based “Global Humanitarian Forum” (no longer operating) has published a comprehensive report documenting the global impact of climate change on human society today.

      Climate Change is here. It has a human face. This report details the silent crisis occurring around the world today as a result of a global climate change. It is a comprehensive account of the key impacts of climate change on human society. Long regarded as a distant, environmental or future problem, climate change is already today a major constraint on all human efforts. It has been creeping up on the world for years, doing its deadly work in the dark by aggravating a host of other major problems affecting society, such as malnutrition, malaria and poverty. This report aims at breaking the silent suffering of millions. Its findings indicate that the impacts of climate change are each year responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths with hundreds of millions of lives affected. Climate change is a serious threat to close to three quarters of the world population. Half a billion people are at extreme risk. Worst affected are the world´s poorest groups, who lack any responsibility for causing climate change.

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