Rising temperatures in the Arctic are on an unsteerable course, even if drastic measures to curb climate change are undertaken, a United Nations report has found.
The new environmental report projects that winter temperatures in the Arctic will increase 3 to 5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2050, and a subsequent 5 to 9 degrees Celsius by 2080, changes that are “locked in,” even if nations collectively meet Paris Agreement goals.
The report was released at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi on Wednesday, and adds to other recent, dire predictions for the Arctic—one of the places on Earth where global warming will trigger catastrophic outcomes due to the snowballing effects of melting permafrost.
“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,” Joyce Msuya, acting executive director of the United Nations Environment, said in a statement.
“We have the science,” Msuya said, “now more urgent climate action is needed to steer away from tipping points that could be even worse for our planet than we first thought.”
These temperature spikes would see massive permafrost melt—characterized as waking a “sleeping giant” in the report—releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere which could “derail efforts” to meet goals set by the Paris Agreement. Four million people, especially indigenous communities in the Arctic, and 70 percent of the region’s infrastructure will be threatened by thawing permafrost by 2050.
The research warns that many changes are already set in motion for the Arctic. Even if Paris Agreement goals are achieved (and note that President Trump withdrew the United States from this effort), Arctic permafrost is predicted to shrink by 45 percent below current levels.
The report is yet another startling wakeup call, and it intends to instigate global action to avoid these snowball effects.
Last year, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a landmark study on the devastating effects of 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. Wednesday’s report is different in that it details the consequences of “tipping points” or “positive feedback.”
“The urgency to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement is clearly manifested in the Arctic,” Kimmo Tiilikainen, the Finnish Minister of the Environment, Energy and Housing, said in a statement. “It is one of the most vulnerable and rapidly changing regions in the world.”