Ten Things You Should Know About the Arctic and the Arctic Council

Posted by Alison Bauerlein
May 15, 2013
An Iceberg Is Seen Off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland

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.


About the Author: Alison Bauerlein serves in the Office of Digital Engagement at the U.S. Department of State.



Ashim C.
May 15, 2013
Condition of Arctic and Antartic ought to be monitored, and discussed simultaneously with a view to save both. These are natural heritage of mankind. While these ice planets deserve to be protected, a scientific view must be taken as to in what shape they must retained without hampering needs of development, for which resources of these regions may be needed. Process melting is quickening alarmingly. But the process ought not alarm us unduly overly. Surely, melting may have some benign effects too. This must come out in public discourse. Naturalists have a strong lobby. Their activities and programs ought to be rationalised.
Eric J.
United States
May 15, 2013

@ Alison Bauerlein,

In regards to Secretary Kerry's remarks with the Swedish Prime Minister;

"Like the United States, Sweden understands the challenge of bringing universities, students, scientists, businesses, cities, a broad array of actors have to come to the table in order to meet this challenge. And we have to produce best practices which can then be translated to action in countries around the world. This is why recently in my trip to China we joined with the Chinese, who together the United States and China represent more than 50 percent of the global emissions of climate change. Recognizing that, we have come together to elevate the dialogue between our countries, and we will be continuing that dialogue in Washington in a very formal way in July in an effort to try to do more to address this issue." - Sec. Kerry , May 14, 2013

I thought I'd share a video I was watching last night...really put all this in perspective for me.

Check Out Pure Science Specials: Green China Rising on Hulu.




Manh H.
May 22, 2013

very beautiful, protect the environment, help move good life,dich vu seo Travel Diary

Kim H.
United States
May 27, 2013
I find this article interesting and though provoking. My misunderstanding stems from articles about destroyers from these countries that where breaking up arctic ice over the last 24 months in order to allow continued oil exploration and possible methane extraction. Please explain.


Latest Stories