Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic May 06, 2011 - 9:04 am

Scientists issue beefed-up call for climate change action at Arctic Council

"I don't think the Arctic Council can ignore that fact that 400 scientists have been meeting here"

JANE GEORGE
Officials from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program hand a statement to Lene Espersen, the Danish minister of foreign affairs and chair of the Arctic Council, on May 6 asking her take it with her to Nuuk for Arctic Council’s May 12 ministerial meeting. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Officials from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program hand a statement to Lene Espersen, the Danish minister of foreign affairs and chair of the Arctic Council, on May 6 asking her take it with her to Nuuk for Arctic Council’s May 12 ministerial meeting. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

The Arctic Council must respond to rapid climate change in the Arctic with more action when the eight nation body meets next week in Nuuk, more than 400 scientists and experts, said this past week in Copenhagen at a conference on climate change and pollution.

Officials from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program and scientists on May 6 handed a statement to Lene Espersen, the Danish minister of foreign affairs and chair of the Arctic Council, asking her take the statement to Nuuk for the Arctic Council’s May 12 ministerial meeting.

Espersen accepted the statement, which outlines the current state of climate change in the Arctic as well as two reports released this week in Copenhagen on snow, ice and permafrost, and on pollution in the Arctic.

But Espersen didn’t promise any specific action when she spoke to the gathering, saying only that the Arctic Council has a “strong determination to act when necessary.”

What will flow from the Arctic Council meeting, she confirmed, is a new internationally-binding agreement on search and rescue in the Arctic, as well as a proposal for structural changes to the Arctic Council, such as the creation of a permanent secretariat.

The statement given to Espersen reads:

• The Arctic is experiencing unprecedented warming due to human-induced emissions of global greenhouse gases. Arctic snow and ice are melting much faster than expected. This warming has local and global consequences especially for global sea level rise which is now expected to be greater than previously projected (.9 01.6 m by 2100). Sea level rise will continue;

• Mercury and persistent organic pollutants released globally are deposited in the Arctic and impact ecosystems and human health. Global warming will affect contaminant release in the environment. The combination of climate change and pollution puts unique Arctic ecosystems at risk;

• For Arctic ecosystems and human societies, the new Arctic reality is change. This change is occurring more rapidly than was foreseen and challenges resilience. Increased exploitation of Arctic resources is creating opportunities in many places; however, with an associated increase in environmental risk;

• The newest science results emphasize that Arctic processes are intimately connected with processes occurring in the rest of the world;

• What happens in the Arctic influences living conditions far away from the Arctic and vice versa, the future of the Arctic and global environment depends on global action founded on sound science.

The deputy prime minister of Greenland, Jens B. Frederiksen, said he hoped the Arctic Council would issue some response to the statement given to Espersen.

“We would appreciate it if they did,” he said.

It’s not enough to hear all the scientific information which surfaced this past week on how the Arctic is heating up without acting, he said.

“I don’t think the Arctic Council can ignore that fact that 400 scientists have been meeting here in Copenhagen on climate change.”

A response would also help raise more awareness in the rest of the world about the impact of climate change in the Arctic, he said.

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