Social Impacts of Melting Sea Ice in the Arctic

By Hannah Gartner
As climate science has grown two of the areas most closely monitored are the poles. This past January saw record breaking lows of sea ice in the Arctic. For the years between 1981 and 2010 the average extent of sea ice for this time of year was measured to be 14.57 million square kilometers. Since 2005, January has consistently seen sea ice extent below 14.25 million square miles, and this year it reached only 13.53 million square miles. The effects that this loss will have on climate change remain unclear, yet there is consensus that there will be effects.

Sea Ice, Jan 2016
Source: ecowatch.com

What is more apparent is how sea ice, or lack thereof, impacts people in the Arctic. For over a century we have known of the Northwest Passage, a boating rout that takes one from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific through archipelagos above the Arctic Circle. For those in the Northern hemisphere this allows for a much shorter journey to the other side of the World then the conventional one through the Panama Canal. Over the past decade the number of vessels making this journey has risen to around 30 per year. Still, for large shipping containers the voyage can only be made in the Summer months when sea ice is lowest, and they need to bring along ice breaking technology.

As the ice recedes the tourism industry has also moved into the Northwest Passage. They too can only voyage in the Summer, but this does not change the fact that they are stopping in ports that previously would have been impossible. One example is Cambridge Bay, a town of 1,500, which until recently was only accessible by air. The added tourism is changing the culture of these towns. Tours and cultural centers have begun to crop up and the increased traffic is also increasing revenue.

Arctic Cruise
Source:bestholidaytrips.co.uk

For other areas though the outlook is not so positive. Shishmaref, a island town on the western coast of Alaska, has historically relied on Fall sea ice to stop the damaging impacts of storms. However, now the ice isn’t forming until December and the impact is the loss of about 50 feet of shoreline annually. The future of the people of Shishmaref becomes more uncertain each year, and there is consensus that they must relocate or perish. In the face of all this unknown, there is one nonnegotiable fact about receding sea ice – there will be massive affects that dramatically change life within the Arctic Circle.

Environmental Performance Index 2016- A quick checkpoint

By Pooja Mishra

Environmental Performance Index via phys.org

Environmental Performance Index via phys.org

Canada fell down a rank in 2016 Environmental Performance Index. Canada ranked 25th with a score of 85.06. Canada’s overall scored increased by 11.92% in comparison to the score in 2014, 73.14 which was good enough for a 24th rank.
For the past 15 years Yale and Columbia University have been ranking 180 countries on the bases of their environmental performance. This index ranks the performance of each nation in two areas: Protection of human health and protection of ecosystem. It is based on nine assessment areas including air quality, water & sanitation, health impacts, climate & energy, water resources, agriculture, forest, fisheries and biodiversity & habitant.

Canada’s score card:
13th rank with 99.65 score in water and sanitation
18th rank with 94.64 score in health impact
28th rank with 89.75 score in water resources
36th rank with 91.16 score in air quality
59th rank with 95.68 score in agriculture
64th rank with 74.59 score in climate and energy
82th rank with 39.1 score in forest
99th rank with 35.51 score in fisheries
111th rank with 74.5 score in biodiversity and habitat

Compared to last results, our performance has improved to13th rank in water and sanitation, 59th in agriculture, 82nd in forest but this progress has been very slow. In some other areas our performance has degraded since the last study. In 2014 we scored 100 out of 100 in health impacts. We need to focus more on our environmental issues.
Finland was ranked 1st with 90.68 score followed by Iceland (90.51), Sweden (90.43), Denmark (89.21), Slovenia (88.98).

For more and complete analysis click on epi.yale.edu