Arctic provides litmus test for global climate change response

How the international community responds to the crises created by climate change in 'front line' regions such as the arctic could define the landscape for future global co-operation on environmental issues.

In a paper published in Environmental Research Letters James Ford from Montreal’s McGill University catalogues the problems faced by the Arctic’s Inuit people, arguing that in many ways they mirror those likely to be faced by other populations in the developing world.

He claims that while the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to minimise future impacts is clear, there is an urgent need to help those who have been ‘hit hard by climate changes already well underway’.

“For the Arctic’s Inuit population, adaptation offers a tangible way in which dangerous climate change can be potentially avoided and livelihoods protected,” said Mr Ford.

“Realistically, it offers the only means of achieving these goals given the absence of political will globally to stabilise emissions at a level that will prevent significant change in the Arctic climate system, or even the possibility of preventing such change.”

His paper calls for a global climate change adaptation fund to be established, with the wealthy states historically responsible for the majority of emissions footing the lion’s share of the bill.

He argues that short term investment now can help vulnerable peoples prevent risk but also increase preparedness to reduce susceptibility.

“As one of the first regions to experience climate change, the international community’s response to the Arctic communities’ crisis will set an important global precedent,” said Mr Ford.

“Especially as Inuit communities share many characteristics with developing nations around the world, many of which are also at risk, such as limited access to health services, high unemployment and concerns regarding basic services like the quality of drinking water.”

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie