The Arctic impacts the rest of the globe in a number of ways: The two most important ones are probably the permafrost thawing, which releases potentially large methane fluxes and thereby increases global warming, and Greenland ice sheet melting, which is now five times higher than in the 1990s and contributes significantly to sea level rise. Ongoing change may additionally open up new economic opportunities for exploitation of fisheries, transportation, rare minerals, oil and gas as well as tourism, all with an expected impact on biodiversity.
Many organisms in the Arctic Ocean are highly adapted to an older and thicker sea ice regime or temperatures close to freezing, leaving them and the Arctic ecosystem vulnerable to the ongoing warming. They are presently being pushed northward on the shelves and down the slopes where only deep-water species are able to survive. At the same time, species from the South are spreading into previously ice-covered areas and might compete with Arctic species for food and space.
There is growing concern about the rapid climatic changes occurring in the Arctic and the impact of these changes for future development of the European and global climate have to be understood. For planning and managing purposes it is crucial to obtain a comprehensive quantitative understanding of the past, present and future impacts of Arctic climate change.
It is therefore recommended to support research that:
- Provides a comprehensive understanding of the local impacts of global significance of Arctic climate change. Aspects to be considered include: Sea ice, snow cover, and Greenland ice sheets; Permafrost and methane release; and Ecosystems.
- Provides a thorough understanding of the consequences of Arctic climate change on Europe and the world.