Human Ecology Climate Change in Arctic Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Arctic Climate Change and Its Effects on Inuit

The Arctic is located on the middle of the North Pole. The Arctic Ocean, the northern parts of Alaska, Canada, Norway, Russia, and most of Iceland, Greenland and the Bering Sea are included in the Arctic regions. The climate of the Arctic is categorized as polar. It means that there are long and cold winters in the region but short and cool summers. Due to the extreme climatic conditions, the Arctic is one of the world's most thinly inhabited areas ("Arctic, The," 2009).

The ACIA (Arctic Climate Impact Assessment) has presented some key findings regarding the climate in the Arctic. Firstly, there is rapid warming in the region which could result in worldwide climatic changes. At the same time, there could be an increase in the marine transport and resources could be easily accesses as a result of reduced sea ice. However, the melting and softening of ground would not only disrupt transportation but also damage the buildings and other infrastructure in the region (Fenge, 2006).

Climate Change in Arctic and Its Influence

Recently, the Catlin Arctic Survey and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have collected latest data regarding the climate change in the Arctic region. This data has presented convincing and undeniable facts that the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is thinning. This confirmation supports the rising belief that within a decade, the Arctic Ocean will be largely ice-free throughout summer ("Melting Arctic Ice Threatens to Speed up Climate Change," 2010, p. 4).

The Earth's climate system positions Arctic sea in centre. Thus, its removal definitely means that there would be a rise in the global temperature. According to Dr. Martin Sommerkorn (WWF), "Such a loss of Arctic sea ice cover has recently been assessed to set in motion powerful climate feedbacks which will have an impact far beyond the Arctic itself - self perpetuating cycles, amplifying and accelerating the consequences of global warming" (as qtd. In "Melting Arctic Ice Threatens to Speed Up Climate Change," 2010, p. 4). The melting of ice could lead to a severe flooding with the potential of influencing 1/4 of the world's population. Moreover, the world would likely to experience extreme weather changes and significant increases in greenhouse gas discharges ("Melting Arctic Ice Threatens to Speed Up Climate Change," 2010, p. 4).

The climate change in Arctic can also shift the vegetation zones and this can cause extensive impacts such as amplification of global warming with forests' expansion, insect outbreaks, forest fires, and increase in the range of crops. It has also been predicted that the Arctic climate shift will change the diversity of animal species along with their ranges and distribution in the Arctic region. Animals including polar bears, seals, walruses, and seabirds that are solely dependent on the biological productivity of the sea and on the sea ice could be in danger with climatic shifts. Moreover, the animals could also be affected by the decline in certain types of vegetation they feed on and this would consequently affect the food chain ("Scientific facts on," 2012).

Climatic Change Effects on Inuit

There are numerous native Arctic communities that are faced with new challenges due to the climate change in the area. The climate change is not the only factor that is causing problems for them. They are already facing social, economic, and political problems at the moment. Thus, at the same time, the unstable and predictable weather intensifies the problems of their daily lives.

Arctic is that huge region on the surface of the Earth that is almost unknown to many. However, this large marine environment experiences such a severe climate change that is most noticeably changing environmental and biological relationships, cultures and economies of the inhabitants of this region, especially that of Inuit. By going through the facts and figures, one can easily understand that the region is going through the most significant change. Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a prominent Inuit leader, has invited the leaders and opinion-makers from all over the world to come to Arctic and take a look at what's going on in there (Fenge, 2006).

The increasing unpredictability of temperature and precipitation and the strange look and feel of the Arctic land have made it difficult for the Inuit to spend their daily lives safely and properly. They have become unfamiliar with the land and the seasons due to the climatic harshness. The Inuit have constantly reported about the environmental change. The Inuit hunters too are already impacted by the massive depletion of summer sea ice. The Inuit communities are also facing increased exposure to storms specifically those who reside by the coast. The Inuit are also affected by the elevated ultraviolet radiation just like other Arctic communities (Fenge, 2006).

There are about 155,000 Inuit who inhabit the Arctic region. For them, hunting is not a hobby but a way of life that strengthens them socially, culturally, economically and communally. The Inuit hunters are increasingly faced with difficulties. However, regrettably, problems of climatic change may become the norm for Inuit. Their heavy dependence on the local environment to support small hunting and fishing settlements has been disturbed by the considerable climatic changes in the Arctic region. These include late freezing and earlier break-up of the sea ice, irregular weather as well as stronger and more frequent winds. Moreover, they also have to endure extreme temperature, increased precipitation during summer as well as low seal catch as their number and range is continuously declining (Ford, 2005).

However, the accessibility of the hunting areas for Inuit is getting really affected due to the continuous changing climatic conditions. During October-July (the colder months), the access of Inuit to open water for fishing, snowy caribou runs and the ice edge is totally reliant on the sea ice and snow conditions. The freeze-up during the in the fall impedes the time for harvesting because the harpoon seal hunters and ice fishers have to wait for a long time before they can be sure of the safe travel on the ice. The longer freeze-ups is especially frustrating and irritating for the Inuit from Igloolik because this particular village is located on a small island. Therefore, the hunters belonging to this village cannot venture into the hunting areas and have to wait for ice to become thick (Ford, 2005).

The Inuit communities are also challenged by inadequate health services, near to the ground socio-economic status, high joblessness, swarming accommodations, poor drinking water, and non-educational environment. The life expectancy of the Inuit men is low as compared to the other men living in the same region. Moreover, there have been sweeping socio-cultural economic changes experienced by Inuit in the 20th century including the "industrialization of the Arctic, the sedentarization of former semi-nomadic hunting groups to permanent settlements, and, more recently, integration into the globalized economy" (Ford, 2009).


In spite of the new confrontations, Inuit communities are coping well with the environmental changes in ways that are both innovative and effective. Many of them now are in a habit of making extra preparations before going out and all this is done due to the potential dangers of weather. The hunters, too, keep small boats in order to keep away from being stranded on drifting ice. Most of them avoid traveling on the land or water just because they follow their instincts that the weather would become bad. Some of them choose to stop going out and be home altogether at difficult times of the year. They change the timing and location of their activities. The GPS (Global Positioning Systems) is being used by many hunters to detect the movement of the ice. They also keep VHF radios so that they can contact others in times of emergency. Moreover, they consult satellite images of the sea for…

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