As U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are currently holding their first formal summit, opinion-makers are suggesting that their meeting of minds should focus on the Arctic vis-à-vis the ever-present problem of climate change.
“For millennia, the Arctic has been a stabilizing component of Earth’s climate system,” wrote Vancouver Sun columnists Russel Shearer and Rafe Pomerance in an op-ed published Tuesday. “Thanks to the work undertaken over the past several decades by the international scientific community including Canadian and U.S. scientists, we know that the Arctic is changing rapidly, with warming occurring at twice the rate relative to the rest of the planet.”
The columnists added that there are “many threads,” or many storylines, so to say, in the Arctic as far as global warming is concerned. These include weather disruptions in the Northern Hemisphere, serious permafrost thaw problems that disrupt infrastructure and cause severe increases in greenhouse gas emissions, ice melt, the loss of spring snow cover, and “unprecedented” fire seasons in the northern boreal forest.
As such, Shearer and Pomerance posited that there are two main questions that should be answered in the Obama-Trudeau summit; how to “slow and stabilize” global warming in the Arctic, and how to adapt to the new Arctic given the continued prevalence of human activities that contribute to climate change.
Another key talking point of the op-ed was the trend of “what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,” as global warming affecting that region tends to affect the rest of the world. The writers pointed out that alpine glacial and continental ice melt could contribute to at least one meter of sea level rise by the end of the 21st century. This could mean the inundation of cities, island states, and coastal regions in several parts of the world – “in short, the fate of Greenland’s ice sheet is the fate of Miami,” they wrote. And with Trudeau now visiting Obama in the White House for the summit, the Arctic’s sea ice threshold – one of the lowest on record – may already have been reached.
“The Trudeau-Obama summit offers the chance to transform the climate change dialogue, building on the momentum of the recent Canadian First Minister’s meeting on climate change and the current U.S. Chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council which has made climate change a key priority,” Shearer and Pomerance concluded. “As two key Arctic nations, the Arctic must be central to those discussions.”