1. The Arctic Council is comprised of eight member countries: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States.
2. The Arctic Council was created in Ottawa in 1996. For more information on the Arctic Council, visit their website.
3. The Arctic States account for an estimated 10 percent of all human-produced black carbon emissions and 20 percent of anthropogenic emissions of methane. These pollutants are particularly harmful in the Arctic as they accelerate circumpolar warming.
4. The Arctic is already warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, causing dramatic shifts in our environment and weather patterns. Secretary Kerry arrived in Kiruna, Sweden, on May 14, to discuss past accomplishments and the future agenda of the Arctic Council.
5. Climate change is endangering the Arctic region’s rich habitats, cultures and resources. Ancient permafrost is thawing, and Arctic wildfires are flaring up. In response to issues like this, the United States and Sweden (with 4 other countries and the UNEP) launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, including black carbon, which, collectively, could prevent warming of 0.5° Celsius by 2050.
6. In September 2012, the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean reached its lowest levels on record, amplifying a dangerous climate feedback loop, affecting global weather patterns and threatening marine mammals dependent upon Arctic ice for hunting and breeding grounds.
7. Sea ice melt affects people living in the Arctic, the indigenous communities that have depended on the Arctic ice for generations for food and protection. In Alaska, ice acts as a natural barrier, sheltering the coast from hostile seas. Without this protection Alaskan shorelines are eroding, causing homes to fall into the sea and forcing communities to move.
8. Arctic wildfires have been absent from the tundra for thousands of years, but we are now seeing them again. In 2007, an Alaskan fire caused by a lightning strike burned for months, scorching more than 400 square miles of terrain and destroying important habitat.
9. As Secretary Kerry mentioned in his remarks yesterday in Stockholm, the U.S. and China together represent more than 50 percent of global emissions. The two countries issued a joint statement on climate change last month.
10. This month the White House released a National Strategy for the Arctic Region that sets forth the United States Government’s strategic priorities for the Arctic region.