Journal of Environmental Protection, 2010, 1, 59-69
doi:10.4236/jep.2010.11008 Published Online March 2010 (
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates
of Change in the Arctic*
Joseph Santhi Pechsiri1, Amir Sattari2, Paulina Garza Martinez1, Liu Xuan3
1Department of Industrial Ecology, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden; 2Division of Indoor Environment,
Department of Technology and Built Environment KTH Research School, University of Gävle, Gävle, Sweden; 3Department of In-
dustrial Ecology, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden.
Received December 30th, 2009; revised February 3rd, 2010; accepted February 4th, 2010.
Climate Change is a global phenomenon that has a global scale impact. The current trend of climate change towards
the warming of the globe has resulted in various changes in the geological, climatology, social, economical, and bio-
logical processes worldwide. Temperature of the globe has increased due to various factors, but anthropogenic plays a
major contribution through the heavy input of Greenhouse gases. One of the world’s most remote regions that have
been affected by most of the anthropogenic stresses on environmental services is the Arctic Region. The Arctic Region
has shown various drastic changes and has shown to be effected by various anthropogenic activities that take place
elsewhere. These changes include the ozone hole (resulting from ozone degrading compound emitted heavily by an-
thropogenic demands), the accumulation of various persistent and volatile pollutants (i.e. POPs), and the meltdo wn of
the polar ice (among others). These drastic changes are well perceived and well projected for future preparations.
However, the question still remains if these impacts would only accelerate change. This paper aims to discuss if these
changes are accelerating or happening at a constant rate. In addition, this paper aims to only focus on chang es due to
global warming and climate changes phenomenon.
Keywords: Climate Change Impacts, Rates of Change, Causal Network, Arctic Ecosystems
1. Introduction
Climate Change is one of the biggest threats to the nature
and humanity in the 21st century, influenced by both
anthropogenic activities and natural phenomenon. It was
calculated that the increase fossil fuel use with enhance-
ment global warming will lead to the extinction of civ ili-
zations as time increases [1]. Hence the problems associ-
ated with Climate Change are one of the major obstacle
to Sustainable Development. With an increasing release
of Green house gases (GHG), which is the major cause of
global warming and a key role in regulating Earth’s
temperature, it is vital to respond by achieving greater
understandings on the impacts of climate chang e.
The impacts of Climate Change have been widely ac-
knowledged to be deteriorating ecosystems services.
Coral Reefs have been found to degrade due to increas-
ing oceanic temperatures [2], while melting ice sheets
caused problems for Arctic organisms [3]. Although sev-
eral studies have been made on the opportunities and
adaptations required meeting climate change challenges
[4,5], however, the question remains whether the rates of
change caused by climate-change led impacts will be
constant or accelerating. Acknowledging the rates of
change of the effects resulted from climate change led
impacts is vital towards setting goals for sustainable de-
velopment. Since if the rates are accelerating, it may re-
quire leading agencies to contribute to reducing the ef-
fects of Climate Change while combating Climate
Change itself. Hence the aim of this paper is to review
the impacts of climate change to glimpse the prospects of
the rates of change that may result.
The Arctic Region is one of current most remote
places on the planet. However, due to the effects of vor-
ticity, the location, the Arctic Oscillation, and various
other factors that made the Arctic vulnerable to change.
The characteristics of the Arctic Ocean are similar to that
of the Mediterranean Sea, where it is heavily influenced
by “land-ocean interactions with restricted exchange with
other oceans” [6]. It is the Arctic region’s vulnerability to
change that has given the Arctic a reputation for being
the global health meter. Hence the aim of this paper is to
determine whether changes caused by climate-change led
impacts will be accelerating or not in the Arctic regions.
To do so, this paper will explore the climate change im-
*The Royal Institute of Technology, KTH (Sponsor)
60 A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
pacts on the Arctic Ecosystem through literature studies.
A prognosis of the rates of change resulted from the im-
pacts incurred by climate change will then be determined
by performing a causal network assessment of the cli-
mate change impacts, where a cause-effect diagram will
be constructed. By understanding the impacts and the
rates of change associated with climate change in the
Arctic regions, future paradigm of the global climate
change impacts can then be perceived which would allow
a greater possibility to move towards sustainability.
In order to assess the rates of change, it is required to
understand the relationships that exist between climate
change and its impacted en tities. One common technique
is to apply Causal Networks. Causal Networks are a dia-
grammatic representation of relationships demonstrating
the causality in relationships. There are a number of
ways of performing a causal network analysis. It can be
as simple as constructing a form of Directed Graphs or as
complex as performing systems dynamics and data min-
ing tasks. However, since this pap er will require not only
the understanding of the impacts from climate change,
but how the impacts are interrelated, where the more
related they are the more probable that the rates of
change will not be constant. Meanwhile, there is limited
resource in terms of time and data availability. Thus, for
this paper, a Cause and Effect diagram will be conducted.
A Cause and Effect Diagram is a type of Directed Graphs
where elements are textually stated and with their rela-
tionships represented using arrows, often without quanti-
tative data [7]. The Cause and Effect diagram does not
give a lot of information but it does present a general
idea of the problems, which would allow a first stance
perception of an issue – in this case climate change im-
In order to assess and construct a Cause and Effect
Diagram, it is mandatory to understand the impacts of
climate change on the Arctic ecosystem. Hence the im-
pacts of climate change on the indigenous people and the
society, biodiversity and biological processes, the Arctic
climate and physical geography, and the Arctic eco-
nomical trends and transitions are reviewed.
2. Climate Change Effects on Indigenous
People and the Human Health
The situation is the same across th e North for indigenous
people from Canada’s Arctic to Siberia. The Polar Re-
gions are experiencing some of Earth’s most rapid cli-
mate change, even though they have contributed th e least
to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and have the
smallest ecological footprint on earth. Indigenous people
are affected by climate change and the effects varying
depending on different locations and ecosystems in
which they live, because their culture and the whole
ecosystem that they interact is dependent on the cold and
the conditions of the Arctic region. For example, the ice
is diminishing and animal migration routes in the Arctic
are changing. Indigenous people depend on natural re-
sources for their livelihood and they often inhabit diverse
but fragile ecosystems. For indigenous peoples around
the world, climate change brings different kinds of risks,
to cultural survival and undermines indigenous human
rights [8].
Climate change also increased health risk and contrib-
uted to increase mortality in many regions of the world.
Many present human diseases are linked to climate fluc-
tuations. Some evidence is mounting that the changed in
the broad-scale climate system may already be affecting
human health, including mortality and morbidity from
extreme heat, cold, drought or storms, changes in air and
water quality and so on. Changes in climate would also
create new challenges for community health. Drier sum-
mer conditions and the projected increase in forest fire
incidence would likely lead to increased lofting of dust
and dust-borne organisms and an increase in forest fire
incidence. The poorer air quality resulting fro m increases
in smoke and dust would likely increase respiratory ill-
nesses such as asthma [9]. Impacts on the health are not
only due to climate change, but may also be due to re-
leases of greenhouse gases, i.e. incomplete combustion
emissions from internal combustion engines [10] which
can cause various health problems under specific envi-
ronmental conditions [11].
The other aspects influenced the indigenous people is
that climate change induced the culture transformed. For
example, people live Arctic has already adapted to the
environmental but as the weather gets warmer, the people
are becoming stressed. The routes across the ice become
danger ous when the ice thins [3].
3. Effects of Climate Change on Biodiversity
and Biological Processes
Climate change is expected to increase during the next
hundreds of years, contributing to many changes such as
physical, ecological, economical and social but many of
them are already taking place. The increase on precipita-
tion, shorter and warmer winters, decreases in snow and
ice cover, rising of the sea levels are projected changes
that will likely persist in the long term (see section 4).
Changes related to climate change or the Arctic may
cause “cascade-impacts”, therefore involving many spe-
cies of animals and plants. Comparing with other warmer
regions, the systems in the arctic have generally less spe-
cies, but such species develop important and similar roles,
so if the species are displaced, there can be terrible con-
sequences for other species that depend upon them [12].
3.1 Changes in Habitat and Distribution
Annual average temperature in the Arctic has increased
almost twice the rates as that the rest of the world on the
past years, with many variation between different regions.
A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic 61
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
Because of such warming environment, increased at-
mospheric CO2 concentrations and other green house
gases due to human activities, mainly the burn ing of fos-
sil fuels and increased UV irradiance the temperature is
projected to increase. It is assumed that the distribution
of species or the habitat in the Arctic will move towards
the north and that local species will migrate [13] which
leads to the gretest impact of climate change; the domi-
nance of species that favours the changed environment
[14]. Many ecosystems and species have been recently
affected on its distribution, for example the Marine En-
vironment which is a highly climate-dependant system;
therefore, climate variations are having important con-
sequences on marine species [15,16].
Polar bears population which is very dependent on sea
ice has decreased around 15% in both average weight
and number of cubs during recent years [3]. The in-
creased temperatures and increased rains of spring cause
the collapse of dens resulting in the death of cubs and
females. Also the early break-up of the ice in the spring
separate the den sites from feeding areas so the young
cubs can’t swim long distances from dens to the feeding
areas. Polar bears cannot survive if there is a big loss of
the ice cover during the summer, so their only option
would in a nearly future will be to change to a land –
based lifestyle during the summer which means competi-
tion with brown and grizzly bears, resulting as an addi-
tional threat to their survival. The loss of polar bears is
very likely to have fast consequences for the ecosystem
that they are currently occupying.
3.2 Changes in Abundance
Climate change is projected to affect individual organ-
isms’ size, structure and abundance. Organisms’ physio-
logical responses and depend upon the dynamics of the
populations and competitiveness between species. Physi-
ology and Biochemistry are very important because they
are key elements for the response of the organisms to
changes in environment.
Phenology studies the relation between climate factors
and life cycle of organisms, and it is also crucial for the
diversity of the Arctic, unexpected events in climate will
also affect the size of populations. The most important
impacts related to such issue co nsist o n how ch anges will
affect interaction between pairs of species, and if one of
the species changes its phenology more than others, this
will probably increase the effects of competition [17].
3.3 Changes in Migratory Habits
The climate affects the migration and survival of animals
that are an important source of native diets, the ability o f
goods to arrive from the south, the stability of homes on
the permafrost and the ice-thickness to make travel over
land and sea safe [3].
Climate change is expected to cause the northward
expansion of forests into th e Arctic tundra, and of tundra
into polar deserts. Such changes are likely to take place
this century in areas where suitable soils and o ther cond i-
tions exist. This is exp ected to result in the area of tundra
becoming smaller than it has ever been during the past 21
000 years, reducing the breeding area for many birds and
the grazing areas for certain land animals [3]. However,
the possibility of migration is dependent on various fac-
tors. According to [14] insects and birds will be able to
migrate but would have been a challenge for flightless
The total number of species in the Arctic is projected
to increase under a warmer climate due to migration of
species from the south. Many of the adaptations that en-
able plants and animals to survive in the Arctic environ-
ment also limit their ability to compete with species that
move in from the south. Moreover, Arctic species are
limited in their northward migr ation by the Arctic Ocean,
which enhances the likelihood of bioinvasive success.
These northern species may be reproducing less success-
fully due to temperature-induced habitat changes, while
changes affecting breeding grounds and access to food
may cause seasonal migrations to take place earlier in
spring and later in autumn. Changes in th e ranges of cer-
tain bird [18], amphibians, and invertebrate species have
been observed [13]. At present, there are more varieties
of moss and lichens in the Arctic than anywhere else in
the world. This type of vegetatio n is particularly likely to
decline as the Arctic [3]. Under a CO2-doubled climatic
forcing, migration fates of vegetation have also predicted
in a variety of scenarios [19].
The geographical spr ead of animals can generally sh ift
much faster than that of plants, and large migratory ani-
mals such as caribou can move much more readily than
small animals such as lemmings. In addition to mobility,
the availability of food sources is another factor that in-
fluences the pace at which different species will shift
northward. All of these differences will result in the
break-up of currently interdependent communities and
ecosystems and the formation of new ones, with un-
known consequences [3,13].
3.4 Problems with Bioinvasion
Invasion of non-indigenous species have caused impor-
tant problems during the past years. With a changing
climate in terrestrial ecosystems, species seem to be more
likely to survive in the Arctic and therefore new species
will probably arrive, and so me of them will establish and
form reproducing populations. There is not yet a clear
establishment of classifying such new species as “native”
or “non-native” when the reason of a rapid change in
climate is driven anthropogenically, but it stills need to
be remembered that at least 1% of the species that are
introduced into the Arctic environment are likely to be-
come “invasive species” [3]. An example of this has been
62 A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
portrayed in British Columbia where invasive species
that are often aggressive and highly adaptable, have been
continually introduced in low elevation protions of Brit-
ish Columbia; most of which are plants and noxious
weeds [14]. Such introduction can lead to resource com-
petence a nd diseas e spreading, for wildlife and people.
On the aquatic environment one of the major problems
is caused because of the thinning of the sea ice and the
opening up of the Arctic Ocean to more shipping so the
possibility of introducing non-native species through
ballast has increased and for that reason environmental
risks. It is under great concern not only because of the
problems that it creates, but also because 80% of the
worlds total cargo is transported by ships [20], while
many thousands of marine species are being transported
through ballast water [21]. Ballast water becomes a
problem when organisms that came with the ballast water
survived the journey and started dominating in the new
habitat [20]. In addition various kinds of bacteria and
viruses may spread due to the results of the depletion of
the Oxygen in the water, allowing them to grow during
the journey [22]. In fact, it was said that most of the
aquatic species do not survive the voyage, which is often
shorter than the long voyages at sea [20]. Despite this
fact, if the water quality remains favorable, towards cer-
tain species, for the whole voyage and at the destination,
this may give the higher possibility for success in bioin-
vasion, since its success would require the organism to
stay alive during the voyage, to be able to adapt to the
new environment and to out compete the local species
4. Arctic Climate and Geographical Impacts
due to Global Warming
It is believed by various scientists that global warming
will be manifested through Arctic’s regional changes.
There have been various climate models predicting tem-
perature changes in the Arctic regions. R. W. Mcdonald
R. W. et al (2005) stated that in the 20th century, the
Arctic has been at its warmest comparably to the tem-
peratures of the past 400 years, where there would be an
approximate increase of 5oC or more at the pole and 2–
3oC increase at the arctic margins, whilst decreasing the
temperature contrast between the Arctic and the equator.
[24] have used various global climate models to predict
scenarios of climate changes in the Arctic region and
suggests that there will be a 5oC increase during the
spring (Mar – May), 1–2oC duing summer (Jun – Aug), 7
–8oC during autumn (Sept – Nov) and 8–9oC during
winter for the 2030 AD–2060 AD period. In addition,
some studies suggest temperature change is greater over
land than the ocean [25], while some suggest a similar
trend. According to [6] the Eastern Arctic Ocean’s tem-
perature in spring indicates a warming of 2oC per decade
while the Arctic land mass indicates a warming of 2oC
per decade in winter and spring.
The changes in temperature have caused changes in
the pressure over the Arctic Region. [24] suggested that
there will be a decrease in 1–2 mb of sea level pressure
in the Arctic region where these projected decreases of
pressure are in the autumn and winter. Studies on the
Arctic Oscillation have also shown anomalies in the
pressure of the Arctic region. Arctic Oscillation is a cli-
matic index which indicates atmospheric circulation over
the Arctic, taking considerations of various factors in-
cluding pressure and vorticity, among several others [26].
The Arctic Oscillation index has been found to be gain-
ing a positive shift since the 1980s and especially in the
1990s, indicating increasingly lower sea-level pressure.
These values have been found to be distributed symmet-
rically over the pole while higher pressures are evident
over the North Atlantic and North Pacific during the
winter and over Siberia and Europe during the summers.
Normally the Arctic Oscillation index value would be
shifting between positive and negative values, but some
research studies suggest that GHG warming is the culprit
for locking the Arctic Oscillation index value to a posi-
tive position [6]. In addition, it is also suggested that the
temperature changes in association with the Arctic Os-
cillation is large enough to effect the polar circulation.
The changes in Arctic Oscillation, especially on the av-
erage sea level pressure, have allowed increase in pre-
cipitation, including increase cyclonic activities. [25]
discussed models for projecting climate change scenarios
for global impact studies and projected that during win-
ters there would be increases in precipitation in middle
and high northern latitudes. In addition, there would also
be large precipitation in creases in the northwest of North
America. [24] suggested that polar low pressure systems
would be more common, causing an increase in mixed
phase precipitation, while warmer temperatures may
contribute towards enhanced hydrological cycles over the
arctic, increasing the stratification of the upper ocean. It
had been projected that precipitation during 2030–2060
are generally higher that present by 1 cm per month. The
changes in the Arctic Oscillation would allow the Arctic
region to become wetter and in combination with warm-
ing of the Arctic atmosphere, freezing mist and drizzle
generation would increase. In addition, current trends in
the Arctic Oscillation Index indicate a greater tendency
for cyclonic activity and the poleward-propagating ex-
tratropical cyclones will have fewer tendencies to decay.
[6] suggest that, under the condition of 1% CO2 concen-
tration increase per annum for 80 years, precipitation
would increase by 0.5–1 m per annum for Arctic and
subpolar regions.
Other geographical impacts of climate change on the
Arctic region include the decrease in ice volume and ex-
tent, decrease in permafrost areas, fresh water discharge,
among others. [6] suggests that the mean annual river
A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic 63
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
discharge will increase by 20% for the Yenisei, Lena and
Mackenzie rivers with 12% decrease for the Ob River,
where Yensei, Lena, Mackenzie, and Ob are the 4 many
other major rivers that discharges to the Arctic Ocean. In
addition the amplitude and seasonality of flow will
change due to decrease snow fall and earlier spring melt.
There is also glacial ice mass loss in the Arctic region.
Ice mass in Greenland are decreasing at the rate of 53
km3/layer. [24] have used 4 global climate models to
project scenarios of sea ice in the Arctic and resulted in
reductions in ice extent and thickness in the Arctic region .
It is estimated that by 2050, ice extent will decline by
30% and the ice volume 40%. Data recorded by ships
and settlements suggested that the ice extent declin e have
fall below pre-1950 minima after 1975. Satellites records
show that for the past 20 years, the rate of decline of ice
extent is at 3% per decade. It is projected with satellites’
records’ extrapolation that in 2050, the trend of summer
minimum ice extent reduction will be at 15% and the
volume will be decreased by 40%. [6] suggests that by
2100 permafrost area could be reduced by 12–22%. Ap-
proximately 25% of the land in the Northern Hemisphere
and under sediments of the continental shelves is perma-
frost, where discontinuous permafrost regions of the Arc-
tic are the most vulnerable to change.
From these changes of the geographical and climatic
changes of the Arctic region, we can see the magnitude
of impacts due to climate change on the Arctic regions. It
is these changes that will impact the global environment
at all scales.
5. Economical Trends due Impacts of the
Arctic Region due to Climate Change
Sub-regional impacts: In a region as large and diverse as
the Arctic, there are significant sub-regional variations in
climate and the warming is more dramatic in some areas
than others. For example in some regions such as parts of
Canada and Greenland (near the Labrador Sea), have not
yet experienced the tangible warming of the rest of the
region. Regional variations in future climate change are
also projected. In fact the local characteristics of the na-
ture and societies also create differences in types of im-
pacts and the importance of them in each sub-region.
This makes the discussion of economic impacts more
specific, regional, and controversial because of the inter-
connections between these regions. As an intuition into
the different regional impacts, just some general proper-
ties of different arctic sub-regions are presented and the
economical impacts will be discussed in general, while
different economical impacts can be inspired from dif-
ferent climate characteristics. The regions and their spe-
cific changes due to global warming can be classified as
follows [27]:
1) East Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland,
Northwest Russia, and adjacent seas: The marine access
to oil, gas, and mineral resources is likely to improve as
sea ice retreats. A general increase in North Atlantic and
Arctic fisheries is likely, based on traditional species as
well as the influx of more southerly species.
2) Siberia and adjacent seas: Sea-ice retreat is very
likely to increase the navigation season through the
Northern Sea Route, presenting economic opportunities
as well as pollution risks. Access to offshore oil and gas
is likely to improve but some activities could be limited
by increased wave action.
3) Chukotka, Alaska, Western Canadian Arctic, and
nearby regions: Damage to infrastructure will result fro m
permafrost thawing and coastal erosion. Reduced sea ice
will enhance ocean access to northern coastlines. Thaw-
ing may cause problems for land transport in winter.
Traditional local economies based on resources that are
vulnerable to climate change (such as polar bears and
ringed seals), are very likely to be disrupted by warming.
4) Central Eastern Canadian Arctic, West Greenland,
and adjacent seas: Sea-ice retreat is likely to increase
shipping through the Northwest Passage, providing eco-
nomic opportunities with increasing the risks of pollution
due to oil spills and other accidents. More southerly ma-
rine fish species such as haddock, herring, and blue fin
tuna could move into the region. Lake trout and other
freshwater fish will decline, with impacts on local food
supplies as well as sport fishing and tourism.
5.1 Major Potential Economical Impacts:
Climate change would have a wide range of impacts on
the Arctic Economy. Although it is probably that this
would have led to the tradgedy of the commons [28] but
may also have led to developmental impacts. The sig-
nificant economical impacts of the climate change to the
arctic regions are being discussed as follows.
5.2 Agriculture and Forestry Development
Treeline is expected to move northward and to higher
elevations, with forests replacing a significant fraction of
existing tundra, and tundra vegetation moving into polar
deserts, thus as potential areas for food and wood pro-
duction expand northward due to a longer and warmer
growing season and increasing precipitation, where suit-
able soils exist, agriculture and forestry will have the
potential to expand northward due to a longer and
warmer growing season. More-productive vegetation is
likely to increase carbon uptake, although reduced reflec-
tivity of the land surface is likely to outweigh this, caus-
ing further warming. The consequent impacts such as
emissions from transportation of the agriculture and for-
estry products and machinery used to handle the related
cultivation and process industries may also become of
more importance as contributors to speed up the climate
change rate.
64 A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
5.3 Expanding Marine Shipping and Access to
The continuing reduction of sea ice is very likely to
lengthen the navigation season and increase marine ac-
cess to the Arctic’s natural resources, though increasing
ice movement in some channels of the Northwest Pas-
sage could initially make shipping more difficult. Ship-
ping through key marine routes, including the Northern
Sea Route and the Northwest Passage, is likely to in-
crease. The summer navigation season is projected to
lengthen considerably due to the decline of sea ice. Ex-
pansion of tourism and marine transport of goods are
likely outcomes that this may result in increased rate of
released emissions of GHG and other pollutants to the
arctic areas.
5.4 Changes in Fisheries
Some major arctic marine fisheries, including those for
herring and cod, are likely to become more productive as
climate warms. Ranges and migration patterns of many
fish species are very likely to change. Also decreased
abundance and local and global extinctions of freshwater
fisheries are projected for this century. Arctic char, broad
whitefish, and Arctic cisco, which are major contributors
to the diets of local people, are among the species
threatened by a warming climate.
5.5 Indigenous Communities are Facing Major
Economic Impacts
Many Indigenous People depend on hunting polar bear,
walrus, seals, and caribou, herding reindeer, fish, etc. that
lots of these species are likely to be seriously damaged
by climate warming. This results to a shifting towards
food imports and the necessity to have an industrialized
style of living to be able to earn the related income. It
will result in a total change in the economy structure of
the region and style of living of the indigenous people.
5.6 Thawing Ground will Disrupt Transportation,
Buildings, and Other Infrastructure
Northern communities that rely on frozen roadways to
truck in supplies are somehow affected now and may be
affected more. Transportation and industry on land, in-
cluding oil and gas extraction and forestry, will increas-
ingly be disrupted by the shortening of the periods during
which ice roads and tundra are frozen enough to permit
travel. As frozen ground thaws, many existing buildings,
roads, pipelines, airports, and industrial facilities are
likely to be destabilized , requiring substantial rebuilding,
maintenance, and investment. Future development will
require new design elements to account for ongoing
warming that will add to construction, maintenance costs,
and probably the new materials production emissions.
5.7 Increasing Access to Resources,
Industrialization, and Appearance of
Sovereignty Claims
Marine access to some arctic resources, including off-
shore oil and gas and some minerals, is likely to be en-
hanced by the reduction in sea ice, bringing new oppor-
tunities as well as environmental concerns, though in-
creased ice movement could initially make some opera-
tions more difficult. As a result, industrialization in the
arctic areas is inevitable due to the access to the extracted
resources and the high transportation costs to other parts
of the world. This will result in a high er rate of release o f
GHG emissions and other pollutants to the ecosystems
nearby and contribute to the rate of climate changes.
Also due to resource extraction and the industrialization
and the related economic benefits, sovereignty, security,
and safety issues, as well as social, cultural, and envi-
ronmental concerns are likely to arise.
6. Prognostic Overview of the Rates of Change
Climate change will definitely have impacts on the
global scale. As illustrated previously, various factors of
the Arctic will be affected by the current rising trend of
global warming. However, these changes are not hap-
pening at the constant rate, and many are influencing
acceleration in the rates of change.
If we observed the sea level rise, we can see that esti-
mates of the rise in sea level have been changing by
various models over the years. Although it is arguable
there may have been a lack of accuracy in these models,
however, readings of models recently shows a similar
trend. In addition, Recen t studies from the department of
Meteorology, University of Utah, suggests that efforts in
developing climate models in the United States have paid
off in climate models with much greater accuracy than
before [29]. [25] analyzed 3 different models and pro-
jected various changes over a 30 year period with respect
to 1961–1990 data. The projection showed varying fig-
ures in rise; 12–20 cm in 2020s, 24–38 cm in 2050s and
40–58 cm in 2080s. [6] suggested that they may be an
additional of 50 cm in sea level rise to the already esti-
mated rise of 10–25 cm in the past century. One of the
Chief of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA),
Dr. Robert Corell, stated that “Greenland contains
enough water to raise the sea by seven meters” and that
the “sea could under these projections rise a meter every
50 years”, where this can cause great impacts on many
parts of the world as stated by Dr. Robert Corell that
“Bangladesh will lose 40% of its land mass.” It is also
noted that th e total Greenland ice can be melted overtime
by 3oC increase.
The raise in sea level is attributed to many factors,
among them, the increasing rate of ice cover, exten t, and
volume decline. The current rate minimum ice extent
A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic 65
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
reduction would lead to ice free areas. The Sea of Ok-
hotsk, the Sea of Japan, the Northwest Passage through
the Canadian archipelago, and the co ast of Alaska will be
ice free. The central Arctic Ocean, Greenland Sea, Ber-
ing Sea, and Gulf of St. Lawrence will maintain ice cov er
but there will be a reduction in thickness, estimated at 1.5
m with less compact properties. It is also predicted that
marginal ice zone will migrate pole-wards under a
warmer climate [24]. Thus due to more exposed oceanic
areas and the disappearance of former ice, any newly ice
formed would disappear faster due to the salinity content
of the ice. [6] suggested that the Arctic Oscillation also
contributes towards the variation of the Arctic sea ice
distribution. A study of stable isotope data from the
Beaufort Sea dating from 1987 to 1997 show a correla-
tion between the increase of ice melt amounts within the
water column and the increase in the Arctic Oscillation
index. [6] explained that “cyclonic circulation leads to
greater ice divergence, new ice leads, enhanced heat flux,
reduced ridging”, which these factors lead to thinning.
Although, there have been discussion of whether the in-
fluence of the Arctic Oscillation is significant in terms of
thickness distribution change but may not be as signifi-
cant for ice volume change, but it is also suggested that
the sea-ice thinning and the Arctic Oscillation correlation
is strong (approximately 80%), due to various dynamic
effects. As mentioned previously, the Arctic Oscillation
index increase implies lower sea level pressure and in-
crease in cyclonic activity. The increase of Cyclonic ac-
tivities would further enhance the effectiveness of ice
thinning. The Arctic Oscillation index is said to be
locked in the positive position partly due to GHG
warming. Thus, a continuation of rapid global warming
would further imply the enhancement of ice thinning
efficiency, which would cause the global albedo capac-
ity reduction and resulting with an accelerated warming.
Furthermore, it is suggested by [6] that the change in
ice cover would alter the levels of light penetration,
mixing levels, the degree of primary production, and the
amount of carbon flux.
The Degree of mixing is affected by various factors,
including the thermocline and the halocline of the water
column. Prof. Terry Callaghan from the Alaska Scientific
Research Station stated in an interview that the Arctic
region cools the rest of the world through capturing and
storing Greenhouse Gases, high albedo, and the cooling
of the world’s ocean currents. The cooling of oceanic
currents relies on the mixing of the oceanic water column
that is affected by the stratification. The level of stratifi-
cation is influenced by thermocline and the halocline of
the water column. However, due to the warming of the
climate, these stratifications and the hydrology of the
Arctic region have been changing recently. The level of
stratification and the efficiency at which it is forming is
still a scientific controversial discussion due to the vari-
ances in the halocline within the Arctic region [6,30].
The increase in glacial melts, increased precipitation, a
decline in permafrost, and enhance from the Atlantic
lowers the salinity, whereas in some areas the salinity is
increasing due to the change in freshwater flow of rivers,
e.g. the enhancement of salinification of the Eurasian
Basin due to the diversion of river inflow [6]. From these
findings, we can say that the general salin ity balance has
been greatly disturbed by impacts of climate change.
These changes will affect the general mixing of the Arc-
tic, which would affect the efficiency of the Arctic to
cool down the global oceanic currents. According to [31],
the upper oceanic layers of the Siberian coast have
shown a decrease in salinity and have been suggested to
prevent mixing and preventing the warmer oceanic wa-
ters from reaching the surface through the increase in
stratification. The effect of oceanic currents and hydrol-
ogy in general of the Arctic region will also increase the
transportation of contaminants to wards the Arctic region.
This leads to increase in the accumulation of contami-
nants in the Arctic region and thus threatened various
biological species in the region.
The other major impact of climate change that accel-
erates the changes in the Arctic region is the decreasing
permafrost within the region. Permafrost degradation
would lead to the increase of the active layer of the soil
and hence causing further knock-on effects. The degra-
dation of permafrost would lead to a change in vegetation
pattern and other biological processes, wh ile allowing th e
soil to become drier due to the degrading frozen soil
which keeps the moisture to remain within the soil. The
dryness, in addition to change in vegetation pattern
changes, can lead to increase forest fires risks. In addi-
tion, the expansion of forests poleward would decrease
the albedo levels and reducing the global cooling trend.
Other problems of Permafrost degradation may also in-
clude increase sediment loading of water systems and
risks of problems associated with waste management, i.e.
The biological importance in the marine environment
of the arctic can be sometimes underestimated. Species
from the arctic are very dependant to the sea ice. The loss
of the cover or increase stratification are results of the
rapid temperature increase in the arctic due to climate
change and it has the potential to alter the amount of
available food in many habitats. The alteration of the
primary production either on amounts or in its distribu-
tion will decrease the food availability for aquatic biota
such as fishes, whales, seals, walrus, etc. leading to
population depletion, migration or even redistribution
through the food webs. Regional variations in distribu-
tion and abundance of sea ice already have significant
effects on the reproduction and survival of some species
such as polar bear populations.
The increased warming and precipitation are very
66 A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
likely to increase the amount of persistent organic pol-
lutants and mercury that are deposited on the Arctic. As
temperatures raise, snow, ice and permafrost which con-
tain contaminants will melt, leading to the release of
these contaminants. The resulting increase in the concen-
trations of contaminants in ponds and rivers may have
harmful effects on aquatic plants and animals and can
also contaminate sea waters. Such impacts will be ampli-
fied and the levels of contaminants on the Arctic lakes
will be accumulated and transferred up to the food web
even endangering humans health by bioaccumulation that
later can lead to other problems.
There are also important indicators that climate change
affected radically terrestrial species. The climate change
also had very strong impacts on habitat loss, diversity
and migration, indicating that climate change can in-
crease significantly extinction rates and modify the eco-
system in all levels, (global, regional and local) changes
in biota and animal migration routes are also very sensi-
tive to climate changes and will also be associated in
response to warming. Thawing permafrost, changes in
land use, habitat fragmentation are also some important
changes that can affect animal success in reproduction,
survival and dispersal, leading to specie losses in the
By now there is no doubt that natural syste ms in arctic
are changing and the most important thing that we should
take into account is to have the adequate knowledge in
order to know when keystone species begin to cause col-
lapses of ecosystems and reductions in the ecosystem
services. Therefore the monitoring is important for un-
derstanding how the biodiversity in the Arctic is chang-
ing and whether actions to take in order to un derstand the
complex system responses to impacts of the climate
Growing evidence suggests that increases in global
temperatures may lead to more rapid and irreversible
shifts in the climate system. These could produce large
changes in global systems. Since the early 1800’s, the
human activities have helped to increase concentrations
of carbon dioxide by 30%, and methane, a greenhouse
gas with 22 times the glob al warming potential of carbon
dioxide, by 140%. And the rising greenhouse gas emis-
sions will lead to changes in other parts of the earth’s life
support system. The number of people in the world has
grown from 2.5 billion to more than 6.2 billion since
1950.The potential impacts of these events are too high
to ignore. Human population growth and climate change
are critically linked. The size of the population and its
activities will be major factors in the extent of warming.
And the population size will very much determine the
effects on that population of climate change.
Climate change cause many social problems. The
number of refugees and displaced people has increased
markedly. Refugees represent a vulnerable population
with health problems, and large-scale migration because
of flooding, drought and other natural disasters. In addi-
tion to these factors, the increasing population will put
greater stresses on the environmental services, which are
being impacted from the global warming phenomenon
and thus increase the rate of change. The rate of change
in environmental services is further enhanced due to the
possibilities of the generation of new ports and cities due
to possible increase in the shipping and transportation
In terms of economical effects, there are too many is-
sues that would need discussing, so in this paper the ef-
fort is to stick to the side of most important and too con-
cise rather than lots of details. As discussed in the paper,
the development of agriculture and forestry and also ex-
panding Marine Shipping and easier access to the natural
resources, makes the rate of the changes accelerating, it
means day by day the global warming effects such as
thawing of sea-ice results in comfortability and feasibil-
ity of transportation, agriculture, etc. and the related de-
velopments (rebound effect) that helps to much easier
further developments and also more GHG emissions. So
this cycle is an important issue to consider in this area.
The assessment performed in this section, hence,
shows the effects of the impacts in the Arctic regions th at
are caused by Climate Change and how they are related.
From the discussions above, a causal network can be
formed as a Cause and Effect Diagram (See Figure 1).
Figure 1 shows the causal network that represents the
effects of climate-change led impacts and how they are
interrelated. The reinforcing cycle of the climate change
effect is visualized with the significant factors. This cycle
is a growing cycle and can result in an irreversibility
The most important contributing factors in this wors-
ening cycle can be counted as follow:
Figure 1. Cause and effect diagram, a form or causal net-
work, showing the relativity between the effects led by cli-
mate change impacts
A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic 67
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
The development of agriculture and forestry in the arc-
tic region may contribute to the absorption of CO2 at the
first glance, but the reduced reflectivity of the land sur-
face is likely to outweigh this, causing further warming.
Also impacts of emissions from transportation of the
agriculture and forestry products and machinery used to
handle the related cultivation and the related process in-
dustries are contributors to speed up the climate change
rate towards the irreversibility point.
Easiness of direct-route marine transportations across
the arctic zone which means less transportation costs and
less emission from transporting of merchandize at first
which might be a preventive agent for climate change
rate, but this means less costs and an incentive for more
transportation and therefore more emissions in total (the
rebound eff ect).
Increasing access to resources makes industrialization
rate faster and creates a competitive environment through
the region. Also the proximity of the arctic with devel-
oped countries such as Canada, Sweden, Norway, and
Finland makes the change faster and the multinational
companies will start their business there leading to more
resource consumption etc. and all these comes in the
form of a accelerating cycle contributing to both global
warming and the appearance of sovereignty claims for
the region. So in case of having no international treaties
and protocols, we may consider the trend of industrial
revolution infect the arctic region.
From these findings and discussions as demonstrated
above, we can see that most impacts of climate change
on the Arctic region are bound to increase at an acceler-
ating rate of change. Thus the accelerating contribution
towards the climate change (the growing effect) can be
qualitatively visualized in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Accelerating rates of change as a result of in-
creasing cli m ate change ef f ects with res pect to time
7. Discussions
This paper semi-qualitatively assesses the effects of the
climate change impacts in Arctic regions and portrays how
the rates of change inflicted by climate change impacts will
accelerate in the years to come. However, several human
activities that may lower the rates of change have not been
discussed. For example, the economical transitions may
include more environmental strict abiding laws and well
committed emissions cut by the industries. Although, this is
not such a strong case in the past, but commitment to re-
spond to the climate change phenomenon is increasing, as
has been witnessed in the 2009 Copenhagen Climate
Change Summit. Hence further evaluations of this issue
should be conducted. Furthermore, if possible, a more
quantitative approach to this issue should be achieved but
this may become extremely difficult when approaching
social and economical issues. Thus the best practice would
be to approach this issue sem i-quantitatively.
The other main problem is that a lot of this paper uses
qualitative assessment, which makes subjectivity unavoid-
able. It is also the reason why the rates of change are not
given quantitatively. This creates obscurity in terms of re-
sults. Nonetheless, the logical reasoning and evidences
provided throughout previous studies suggests an acceler-
ating rate of change. This means that further studies into
this issue is urgently required.
One interesting factor that needs to be put in to consid-
eration is the use of several parameters as determinants for
impacts of climate change. For example, some indicators
suggesting impacts that may have resulted from climate
change (i.e. growth inhibition and calcium deficiencies of
calcareous organisms) may have been resulted by other
major influencing factors. A study by [32] suggests the
impacts from recreational boating activities, especially due
to exposure to antifouling agents and toxic substances.
Hence, perhaps this also means that the global contribution
to combat climate change may not be sufficient in solving
the aftermath effects of climate change but also all the as-
sociated problems that has magnified the effects resulted
from the impacts of climate change.
From these discussions, it is mandatory to further review
the rates of change caused by climate change, as these ef-
fects and changes will like to accelerate even more as the
problems paramount synergistically with other problems
associated with anthropogenic activities.
8. Mitigation Measures
Several mitigations measures have been reviewed by the
IPCC, UNFCCC, and UNEP, as well as several other re-
searches in the field [33]. However, as a result of possible
accelerating rates of change, several other mitigations
measures are called for. In addition to the mitigation meas-
ures of climate change, leading agencies and authorities
also need to consider other ca uses of environmental degra-
68 A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
dation to slow down the rate of change due to the impacts
of Climate Change. Perhaps, it is necessary to perceive the
problems in a more holistic perspective, i.e. ecological
footprints. Although each environmental problem has its
own ideosyncracies but the causal network shown in this
paper suggest synergistic forces that drive changes in the
environment. Measures to reduce ecological footprints can
be done through implementing ecological engineering
concepts, cleaner production, and industrial ecological and
sustainable technological approaches, among others. Most
of which have already been mentioned in the global arena.
However, one possible mitigation measure that is being left
out is the applications of bioregenerative life support sys-
tems which can assists in lowering dependency on natural
resources and hence promote sustainability [34]. A more
detailed evaluation of the rates of change is required if a
specified mitigation measure is to be achieved. However if
one were to follow the causal network produced in this
paper, it is logical that these ef fects and rates of change can
be reduced by taking out Climate Change but because Cli-
mate Change cannot be prevented it is the best of the global
interest to seek a good response measure.
9. Conclusions
The Arctic Region is exposed to various impacts due global
climate changes. As demonstrated in this report, these
changes are acce lerating due to indirect and direct changes
of impacts due to climate changes. These changes can be
demonstrated in a Cause and Effect diagram, revealing the
importance of the need for international decision and
pledge on stopping climate change and the urgent need to
devise an exhaustive scheme to preserve the Arctic. How-
ever, as discussed above, there needs t o be an urgent further
study to investigate whether the rates of change will truly
be accelerating and by how much it accelerates; to prevent
a global catastrophe.
[1] K. E. Lonngren and E. W. Bai, “On the global warming
problem due to c a rbon dioxide,” Ener gy Policy, Vol. 36, No.
4, pp. 1567–1568, 2008.
[2] L. Burke, L. Selig, and M. Spalding, “Reefs at risk in
Southeast Asia,” World Resource Institute, Washington
D.C., USA, 2002.
[3] ACIA, “Impacts of a warming Arctic: Arctic Climate
Impact Assessment,” Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Retrieved from
[4] S. C. Moser, R. E. Kasperson, G. Yohe, and J. Agyeman,
“Adaptation to climate change in the Northeast United
States: Opportnities, processes, constraints,” Mitigation and
Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, Vol. 13
No. 5–6, pp. 643–659, 2008.
[5] M. L. Weitzman, “A review of the stern review on the
economics of climate change,” Journal of Economic
Literature, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 703–724, 2007.
[6] R. W. Macdonald, T. Harner, and J. Fyfe, “Recent
climate change in the Arctic and its impact on
contaminant pathways and interpretation of temporal
trend data,” Scie nce of the T otal Envi ronment, Vol. 342,
No. 1–2, pp. 5–86, 2005.
[7] A. Perdicoulis and J. Glasson, “Causal networks in EIA,”
Environmental Impact Assessment Review, Vol. 26, No. 6,
pp. 553–56 9, 2006 .
[8] D. Riedlinger, “Responding to climate change in northern
communities: Impacts and adaptations,” Arctic, Vol. 4, No.
1, pp. 96–98, 2001.
[9] J. A. Patz, D. C. Lendrum, T. Holloway, and J. A. Foley,
“Impact of regional climate change on human health,”
Nature, Vol. 438, 17 November 2005.
[10] J. S. Pechsiri, “Environmental implications of recreational
boating: A study of kosterhavets marine national park,”
Thesis for the Masters of Science Degree in Sustainable
Technology, The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH),
Stockholm, Sweden, 2009.
[11] G. W. VanL oo n and S. J. Duffy , “Envi ron mental che mistry :
A global perspective second edition,” Oxford University
Press, United States of America, 2005.
[12] M. B. Bush, “Ecology of a changing planet,” United States
of America, Prentice Hall, 2003.
[13] G. R. Walther, E. Post, P. Convey, A. Menzel, C. Parmesan,
T. J. C. Beebee, J. M. Fromentin, O. Hoeg - Guldbe rg, and F.
Bairlei, “Ecological responses to recent climate change,”
Nature, Vol. 416, pp. 389–395, 2002.
[14] D. V. Gayton, “Impacts of climate change on British Co-
lumbia’s biodiversity: A literature review,” Journal of Eco-
systems and Management, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 26–30, 2008.
[15] C. Birkeland, “Life and death of coral reefs,” Chapman &
Hall, New York, United States of America, 1997.
[16] A. F. Johnson and F. Moghari, “Ecological impacts of
climate change,” The National Academies, United States of
America, 2009 .
[17] C. Parmesan an d G. Yohe, “A globally coherent fingerprint
of climate change impacts across natural systems,” Nature,
Vol. 421, pp. 37 –42, 20 03.
[18] L. Jenni and M. Kery, “Timing of autumn bird migration
under climate change: Advances in long-distance migrants,
delays in short-distance migrants,” Proceedings of The
Royal Society of Lond. B (2003) 270, 1467–1471, DOI
10.1098/ r spb .2003 .23 94. 2003 .
[19] J. R. Malcolm, A. Markham, R. P. Neilson, and M. Garaci
“Estimated migration rates under scenarios of global climate
change,” Journal of Biogeography, Blackwel l Science, Vol.
29, pp. 835–849, 2002.
[20] S. Raaymakers, “The ballast water problem: Global ecolo-
gical, economic, and human health impacts,” RESCO/IMO
Joint Seminar on Tanker Ballast Water Management &
Technologies, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2002.
[21] Marine Scientist, “Invasion by alien biospecies: Ballast
water a biological ti me bomb,” Marine Scientist, No. 1, pp.
4–5, 2002.
[22] A. C. Anil, K. Venkat, S. S. Sawant, M. Dileepk umar, V. K.
A Review of the Climate-Change-Impacts’ Rates of Change in the Arctic 69
Copyright © 2010 SciRes JEP
Dhargalka r, N. Ramaia h, S. N. Ha rkantra, and Z. A. Ansari,
“Marine bioinvasion: Concern for ecology and shipping,”
Current Science, Vol. 83, No. 3, pp. 214–218, 2002.
[23] K. T. Holeck, E. L. Mills, H. J. Maclsaac, M. R. Dichoda,
R. J. Colautti, and A. Ricciardi, “Bridging troubled waters:
Biological invasions, transoceanic shipping, and the
Laurentia Great Lakes,” Bioscience, Vol. 54, No. 10, pp.
919–929, 2004.
[24] United States Arctic Research Commission, “The Arctic
Ocean and climate change: A scenario for the US navy,”
Arlington, VA, USA, 2001.
[25] M. Hulme, J. Mitchell, W. Ingram, J. Lowe, T. Johns, M.
New, and D. Viner, “Climate change scenarios for global
impacts studies,” Global Environ mental Change, Vol. 9, pp.
S3–S19. 1999.
[26] NOAA Arctic, “NOA A arctic theme page.” Retrieved from
[27] S. J. Hassol, “Impacts of a warming climate: Arctic climate
impact assessment,” Cambridge University Press, 2004.
[28] H. E. Daly and J. Farley, “Ecological economics prin-
ciples and applications,” Island Press, United States of
America, 2004.
[29] T. Reichler and J. Kim, “How well do coupled models
simulate today’s climate?” Department of Meteorology,
University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Bulletin of the American
Meteorological Society, 2007.
[30] J. Morison, K. Aagaard, and M. Steele, “Recent environ-
mental changes in the Arctic: A review,” Arctic, Vol. 53, No.
4, pp. 359–371, 2000.
[31] M. Steele and W. Ermold, “Salinity trends on the East
Siberian Shelves, geophysical research letters,” Vol. 31,
L24308, 2004.
[32] P. G. Martinez, “Mytilus edulis as bioindicator for coastal
zone environmental assessment,” Thesis for the Masters of
Science Degree in Sustainable Technology, The Royal
Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden, 2009.
[33] M. A. L. Caetano, D. F. M. Gherardi, T. Yoneyama,
“Optimal resource management control for CO2 emission
and reduction of the greenhouse effect,” Ecological
Modeling, Vol. 213, No. 1, pp. 119–126, 2008.
[34] M. Nelson, J. Allen, A. Alling, W. F. Dempster, and S.
Silverstone, “Earth applications of closed ecological sys-
tems: Relevance to the development of sustainability in our
global biosphere,” Advances in Space Research, Vol. 31,
No. 7, pp. 1649 –1655 , 2003.