Loss of Arctic sea ice and snow drives global heat stress, making already-hot parts of the world unbearable for living and working. Warming in the Arctic changes jet stream patterns, which in 2022, has led to extended heat stress throughout much of Europe and Asia. Elsewhere, by 2050, Southeast Asia could see a 16% reduction in labour productivity because of the rise in heat stress.
The effects of climate change, such as sea level rise and more frequent and intense extreme weather, threaten cities’ (particularly coastal) and communities’ development. Arctic loss of ice and snow amplifies the risk of global heat stress, making cities and communities in already-hot parts of the world unbearably hot to live and work in. At 2°C global warming, it is estimated that the South Asian mean population’s exposure to unsafe air temperatures would double. By 2050, Southeast Asia could see a 16 percent reduction in labor productivity because of the rise in heat stress. Singapore would experience the most significant drop in productivity at 25 percent, followed by 24 percent in Malaysia and 21 percent in Indonesia. Sea level rise and extreme weather events like tropical cyclones also challenge the sustainability of built environments. This is especially true within coastal communities and some of the world’s biggest, most densely populated cities, including New York, Miami, Bangkok, Shanghai, Kolkata, Mumbai and Dhaka. Homes and workplaces throughout the world will require financial and technological modifications to adapt to new weather norms. Indonesia has decided to relocate its capital from Jakarta to Borneo because roughly 40 percent of Jakarta is already under water (Renaldi, 2022).
Globally, approximately 600 million people reside in coastal areas where roughly US$1 trillion of global wealth is concentrated. These areas are increasingly threatened by sea level rise.
While Arctic communities, and particularly Indigenous Peoples, have generally contributed little to climate change, the eight Arctic nations (e.g., the U.S., Canada, and Russia) account for just over 20 percent of the world’s emissions (WWF Arctic, 2020). With the melting Arctic’s strategic location and vast amounts of undiscovered oil, gas and minerals, becoming sustainable remains a challenge for the Arctic.
Considering itself a “near-Arctic” state and having become increasingly active in the region, China is planning a Polar Silk Road. This Polar Silk Road forms a network of shipping routes that connect Western Europe, North America and East Asia through the Arctic Ocean (Silk Road Briefing, 2021). However, increased Arctic shipping brings its own emissions and climate impacts from heavy diesel fuel, and the threat of oil spills that threaten sustainable development in the Arctic.
The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.