It’s not just that the Arctic is changing rapidly that startles me; it’s how much it has already changed.
Thirty years ago, we used to say, “If the Arctic changes…” Fifteen years ago, we said, “When the Arctic changes…” Five years ago, we said, “As the Arctic changes…” Today, I have to report that the Arctic has changed.
The Arctic of today is a vastly different place than the Arctic of just 10 to 15 years ago. While the Arctic is a massive region and the degree and rate of change vary greatly across the North, there is compelling data that outlines the changes. From a decrease in sea ice to a rise in sea levels, to an increase in the number of stormy days, changes are happening now in the Arctic. The video below summarizes just a few of the findings:
These are just some of the measurable changes happening now in the Arctic. I travel frequently in the Canadian Arctic and hear countless stories of change. Elders have told me it’s harder to navigate due to changing sea ice, wind and weather conditions; hunters have told me the ice is less predictable and more dangerous for travel; friends point out areas of eroding coastline that were once popular picnic spots.
It isn’t just about the future anymore. Today the Arctic is experiencing change faster than anywhere else on planet Earth, and it has been for some time now. We’re just beginning to understand the impact these changes in the Arctic are having elsewhere in the world. But the impact that we’re having on the Arctic is clear.
We’re not going to reverse these changes any time soon, but we can take steps to minimize our future impact. Reducing your personal contribution to carbon in the atmosphere is a first step, but the real solutions must come from government policy and corporate practice built on a solid scientific foundation. One of the most powerful things you can do is become aware of the issues and vote accordingly — with your ballot and your wallet. It’s one of the best tools we’ve got.
You can learn more about the changing Arctic on your next visit to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre with hands on exhibits and displays in the Canada’s Arctic exhibit.
Blog post submitted by Eric Solomon, director of Arctic programs at the Vancouver Aquarium. Eric is working on building relationships with scientists and the local community to help protect Canada’s fragile Arctic environment.