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Over the past decade, the Arctic has warmed by 0.75°C, far outpacing the global average, while Antarctic temperatures have remained comparatively stable. As Earth approaches 2°C warming, the Arctic and Antarctic may reach 4°C and 2°C mean annual warming, and 7°C and 3°C winter warming, respectively. Expected consequences of increased Arctic warming include ongoing loss of land and sea ice, threats to wildlife and traditional human livelihoods, increased methane emissions, and extreme weather at lower latitudes. With low biodiversity, Antarctic ecosystems may be vulnerable to state shifts and species invasions. Land ice loss in both regions will contribute substantially to global sea level rise, with up to 3 m rise possible if certain thresholds are crossed. Mitigation efforts can slow or reduce warming, but without them northern high latitude warming may accelerate in the next two to four decades. International cooperation will be crucial to foreseeing and adapting to expected changes.

About the Author

Ross A. Virginia

Ross A. Virginia

Global Fellow, Polar Institute;
Myers Family Professor of Environmental Science and Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies within the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA
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Polar Institute

Since its inception in 2017, the Polar Institute has become a premier forum for discussion and policy analysis of Arctic and Antarctic issues, and is known in Washington, DC and elsewhere as the Arctic Public Square. The Institute holistically studies the central policy issues facing these regions—with an emphasis on Arctic governance, climate change, economic development, scientific research, security, and Indigenous communities—and communicates trusted analysis to policymakers and other stakeholders.  Read more