Peoples Of The North
The Global Issues
The "Making Of"
It’s never easy to find evidence to explain or illustrate the phenomenon of climate change. We know that there are a lot of fluctuations in temperature. To get a better idea of what’s going on up in the Arctic, you really have to divide it in two. In the eastern and central Arctic, there have not been any notable increases in temperature. In fact, some people even say that it’s gotten a bit colder. But the western Arctic is experiencing some major warming.
There are some especially vulnerable areas of the Arctic where scientists are working hard to try to understand climate change–-for example, in Hudson Strait and Hudson Bay, which are probably experiencing more warming than anywhere else on the planet. Farther west, the area around the Beaufort Sea is especially susceptible to warming. The permafrost–-soil that is supposed to stay permanently frozen–-is melting at several locations in this area, and as warming also causes the volume of water in the Earth’s oceans to expand, we are seeing a rapid rise in ocean levels. As the permafrost melts and the oceans rise, the waves become higher, accelerating erosion. Some parts of the Arctic, such as southern Siberia, are losing up to 30 metres of coastline to erosion every year. In the little Siberian village of Shishmaref, the storms have been nibbling away a little more land each year, and the villagers are going to have to move their homes inland to higher ground to save what is left of them.
The Earth’s climate is a large, complex mechanism that is not easy to understand. The carbon cycle and increased emissions of greenhouse gases (which are directly linked with society’s consuming and polluting habits) seem to be two major causes of climate change. This is why governments are trying to ratify global agreements such as Kyoto. Nature also has its own cycles, which we do not understand very well and have little control over. I believe that the only basic solution is for human beings to adapt and learn to live with these changes, whether they like them or not. But adapting takes time. If we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and redefine our way of using fossil fuels, we may succeed in finding a more harmonious relationship with nature.