Question – The world will face new types of challenges due to the impact of climate change in the Arctic region, Comment on the reasons, challenges and role of India regarding this. – 15 July 2021
Answer – Impact of Climate Change in the Arctic Region
The Arctic region is witnessing the most dramatic effects of climate change in recent decades, as the region is warming at twice the rate of the global average. The Arctic ice area has decreased by about 75%. As Arctic ice melts into the ocean, it is creating a new global challenge in nature. This change, on the other hand, is opening up the Northern Sea Route (NSR) which connects the North Atlantic Ocean to the North Pacific Ocean via a short polar arc. Several observational studies predict that this route may be ice-free by the summer of 2050 or even earlier.
Effect of melting ice in the Arctic:
Global Climate: The Arctic and Antarctic act like the refrigerators of the world. Since these regions are covered in white snow and ice that reflects heat from the Sun into space (the albedo effect), they provide an equilibrium relative to the heat absorbed in other parts of the globe.
- Ice erosion, and warming of seawater will affect sea levels, salinity levels, ocean currents and precipitation patterns.
- In addition, the reduction in ice area means that it will also reduce the reflection of heat, which will further increase the intensity of the heat-wave around the world.
- This would mean that these conditions would promote more extreme winters because as the polar jet stream destabilized by warmer winds, it would move south bringing with it severe frost.
Coastal communities: Currently, the average global sea level has risen by 7 to 8 inches since 1900, and this situation continues to worsen.
- Rising sea levels threaten coastal cities and small island countries to lose their existence, exacerbating coastal flooding and hurricanes.
- Glacial melting in Greenland is an important warning of future sea-level rise, which could lead to a global sea level rise of up to 20 feet if the glaciers here completely melt.
Food security: polar cyclones due to the decline in glacial area, increased heat wave intensity and weather uncertainty are already causing significant damage to the crops on which global food systems depend. Due to this instability, the crisis of food insecurity will continue with high prices for the world’s most vulnerable.
Permafrost and Global Warming: A large amount of methane gas is stored under permafrost in the Arctic region, which is a greenhouse gas as well as one of the major factors of climate change.
- Due to the melting of ice in this region, methane will be released into the atmosphere, which will lead to a rapid increase in the rate of global warming.
- The sooner the Arctic ice area decreases, the faster the permafrost will melt, and this vicious cycle will seriously affect the climate.
Threats to Biodiversity: The melting of Arctic ice poses a serious threat to the vibrant biodiversity of the region.
- The loss and degradation of natural habitat, lack of snow throughout the year and high temperature conditions are creating difficulties for the survival of plants, birds and marine life of the arctic region, which drives species north from low latitudes. encourages you to move.
- Decline in ice cover and melting of permafrost is causing problems for polar bears, walruses, arctic foxes, snow owls, reindeer and many other species.
- The conversion of tundra into swamps, thawing of permafrost, coastal damage caused by storm surges, and forest fires have led to an increase in severe devastation in the interior of Canada and Russia.
Northern Sea Route (NSR): The opening up of the Arctic through the NSR presents substantial commercial and economic opportunities (particularly in the areas of shipping, energy, fisheries and mineral resources).
- The opening of this route will cut the distance from Rotterdam (Netherlands) to Yokohama (Japan) by 40% (compared to the Suez Canal route).
- By one estimate, 22% of the world’s undiscovered new natural oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic region, with Greenland estimated to contain 25% of the world’s rare earth metals, in addition to other minerals. These valuable mineral sources will be easily accessible after the ice melts.
Role of India:
- India’s interests: Although India’s interests in relation to these developments are very limited, they are not entirely peripheral or even void.
- Climate of India: India’s extensive coastline makes us vulnerable to the effects of Arctic warming on ocean currents, weather patterns, fisheries and our monsoons.
- Monitoring of the Third Pole: Scientific research on changes in the Arctic, in which India has a good track record, will be helpful in understanding climate change in the Third Pole (Himalayas).
- Strategic need: The strategic implications of China’s engagement in the Arctic region and the growing economic and strategic ties with Russia are well known, and therefore, require extensive monitoring at present.
- Necessary Steps: India has observer status in the Arctic Council, which is the premier inter-governmental forum for cooperation on aspects of Arctic environment and development. At present it is very important that India’s presence in the Arctic Council be strengthened through strategic policies covering economic, environmental, scientific and political aspects.
Impact of Climate Change in the Arctic Region & Role of India in Climate Change
The Arctic is an extremely important component of the global climate system. Just as the Amazon rainforest is the lungs of the world, the Arctic serves as a driving force for us, balancing the global climate in every region. Therefore, it is in the interest of humanity to work together to deal with the melting ice in the Arctic, considering it a serious global issue.