- Mains – GS 3 (Environment)
Context: According to the new study in Nature Communications, the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the 2030s, even if we do a good job of reducing emissions between now and then.
About Arctic Region:
Image source: AMAP
- It is commonly understood to refer to the region above the Arctic Circle, north of latitude 66° 34′ N, which includes the Arctic Ocean with the North Pole at its centre.
- Arctic Council: Eight Arctic States-Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and USA form the Arctic Council.
Significance of Arctic Region:
- Arctic sea ice plays a crucial role in influencing global climate patterns.
- It reflects sunlight, helping to maintain the earth’s energy balance and cool polar regions.
- Sea ice acts as a barrier, keeping the air cool by separating cold air above from warmer water below.
Biodiversity and Indigenous Communities:
- Changes in sea ice impact biodiversity, particularly mammals like polar bears and walruses.
- Indigenous Arctic populations reliant on sea ice for hunting, breeding, and migration are affected.
Economic Opportunities and Competition:
- Reduced ice cover opens shipping lanes and facilitates access to natural resources in the Arctic.
- This leads to increased competition among countries for influence and resource exploitation in the region.
Resources and inhabitants:
- The Arctic is home to almost four million inhabitants, of which approximately one tenth are considered as indigenous people.
- The Arctic Ocean and its surrounding landmass has been a topic of immense interest and a high-priority area of research among the global scientific fraternity as well as of importance to policy makers.
- The Arctic influences atmospheric, oceanographic and biogeochemical cycles of the earth’s ecosystem.
- The Arctic region has rich deposits of coal, gypsum and diamonds and also substantial reserves of zinc, lead, placer gold and quartz.
- Greenland alone possesses about a quarter of the world’s rare earth reserves.
- The Arctic also contains a wealth of hydrocarbon resources. India is the third-largest energy-consuming country in the world.
- The Arctic can therefore potentially address India’s energy security needs.
- Weakening of Polar Jet Streams: Diminished sea ice weakens polar jet streams, resulting in rising temperatures and heatwaves in Europe.
- Unseasonal showers in northwest India have also been linked to this weakening.
- Melting of Ice: The Greenland ice sheet’s melting contributes to rising sea levels, with a complete melt potentially causing a seven-meter rise.
- Changes in Composition of Sea Water: Warming of the Arctic Ocean and seas, along with changes in salinity and acidification, affects biodiversity, including marine and dependent species.
- Affects Fauna: Increased rainfall due to Arctic amplification affects the availability and accessibility of lichens, leading to starvation and death among Arctic fauna.
- Gaseous Emission: Thawing permafrost releases carbon and methane, greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
- It may also release long-dormant bacteria and viruses, potentially leading to disease outbreaks.
Impact of Arctic warming on India:
Rising Sea Level:
- According to the World Meteorological Organization’s report, ‘State of Global Climate in 2021’, sea level along the Indian coast is rising faster than the global average rate.
- One of the primary reasons for this rise is the melting of sea ice in the polar regions, especially the Arctic.
- The Arctic’s ice meltdown and its geographical location will ensure the shortest sea distance between America, Europe and North East Asia.
- This will likely transform the global maritime commerce, presently conducted through the traditional East–West route through the Malacca Strait and Suez Canal.
- The link between the impact of the changing Arctic and monsoons in India is growing in importance due to the extreme weather events the country faces, and the heavy reliance on rainfall for water and food security.
- The melting Arctic ice is also raising the geopolitical temperatures.
- In 2018, China’s White Paper on Arctic policy called itself a ‘Near-Arctic State’.
- The opening of the shipping routes and possibilities of increased resource extraction is leading to the big three—US, China and Russia—and NATO, jockeying for position and influence in the region.
The temperatures could rise strongly by 2026, resulting in humans going extinct, making it in many respects rather futile to speculate about what will happen beyond 2026. Thus , the right thing to do is to help avoid the worst things from happening, through comprehensive and effective action through a Climate Plan.
Source: The Hindu