The Arctic is warming 4 times faster than the rest of the planet. This record warming is altering ecosystems of land-based species globally, and it is increasing the prevalence of infectious diseases that threaten lives and livelihoods across the world. Melting permafrost unlocks greenhouse gases and increases the risk of wildfire. Together, these sources of emissions could contribute as much as 40% of the global carbon budget in achieving the Paris Agreements.
Climate change-induced events are altering ecosystems of land-based species globally. Some of these species are at risk of losing their habitats and foods. Human communities, in and outside of the Arctic, are also greatly affected by climate change. Arctic change drives extreme weather, drought, sea level rise and vector-borne disease beyond the Arctic, which threaten lives and livelihoods across the world. Without adequate vector control management and vaccine programs, regional warming of 4°C could increase vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and Lyme disease fivefold. In 2020 alone, there were 241 million cases of malaria across the world, and 627,000 malaria-related fatalities (WHO, 2022). Daily extreme weather around the world is estimated to take 115 lives and cause economic loss equivalent to US$202 million (WMO, 2021).
As a critical part of the frozen planet, the Arctic helps cool the Earth. It is also storing more than twice the amount of carbon in its permafrost than that currently in our atmosphere. Keeping the Arctic cool is thus key to controlling positive feedback loops that speed up global climate change.
Even with the vast size and complexity of the Arctic, pan-Arctic cooperation on data monitoring confirms that the region’s terrestrial biodiversity is changing rapidly. Arctic species at risk of losing their habitats include polar bears, reindeer, Arctic fox, lemmings, red knots, and muskox (WWF, n.d.). According to Mora Aronsson, changing seasons in the warming Arctic could bring devastating ecological effects as bird’s migratory patterns now mismatch the new vegetation seasons, affecting their food security (Arctic Council, 2021). Rangifer (e.g., reindeer, caribou) populations have declined since the 1990s (State of the Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity Report, 2021).