An increase of between 3-5°C in the Arctic is all but assured, according to a new report released by the United Nations earlier this week.
The report found that even if all Paris Agreement goals are met, winter temperatures will increase by between 3-5°C, potentially thawing permafrost that could wake the ‘sleeping giant’ of more greenhouse gasses, potentially derailing global climate goals.
The report paints a particularly dire picture of a possible increase of between 5-9°C by 2080, devastating the region and unleashing sea level rises worldwide.
“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,” said Joyce Msuya, UN Environment’s Acting Executive Director.
“We have the science; now more urgent climate action is needed to steer away from tipping points that could be even worse for our planet than we first thought.”
The report found that even were global emissions were to halt overnight, temperatures would still increase by up to 4 to 5°C by 2100 compared to the late 20th century as a result of the greenhouse gasses already emitted and locked into the climate system.
“The urgency to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement is clearly manifested in the Arctic, because it is one of the most vulnerable and rapidly changing regions in the world,” said the Finnish Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, Kimmo Tiilikainen.
“We need to make substantial near-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, black carbon and other so-called short-lived climate pollutants all over the world.”
The impacts globally would also be huge. From 1979 to the present, Arctic sea ice is estimated to have declined by 40%. Climate models predict that, at the current rate of CO₂ emissions, Arctic summers will be ice-free by the 2030s. The melting of the Greenland ice cap and Arctic glaciers contribute to one third of sea level rise worldwide.