1. Climate Change and the Arctic Environment
Climate change continues to have significant large-scale impacts across the Arctic, as the region is heating at roughly three times the global average. In 2020, for example, the Arctic Ocean ice pack reached its second-lowest recorded summer ice extent on record—continuing a troubling, decades-long declining trend. Many changes are outpacing model predictions, pointing to the need for urgent action. The eight Arctic nations face many diverse challenges, and the profound consequences of accelerating climate change have become more apparent for Arctic and non-Arctic nations alike. Thawing permafrost and coastal erosion threaten communities and infrastructure, food and water security are growing concerns, the number and frequency of large-scale forest fires are evident across the North, and homeland security challenges such as search and rescue are all exacerbated by a rapidly changing Arctic. Climate change may also present openings for the Arctic region, with economic opportunities related to shipping and trade of particular interest.