Earlier in March, temperatures around the North Pole approached the melting point, right around the time of year that Arctic sea ice is usually most extensive. In some places, the Arctic was more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average. It’s part of an alarming trend; over the past 30 years the region has warmed four times faster than the rest of the globe. The shift is transforming the Arctic land- and seascape, causing sea ice to melt, glaciers and ice sheets to retreat, and permafrost to thaw. And while the Arctic is particularly vulnerable to climate change, it also has an outsized potential to contribute to global warming, as melting permafrost releases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
And yet, just when the climate scientists and governments across the eight Arctic states should be working together to understand and address the climate crisis, Russia’s war on Ukraine has forced the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental group of Arctic states and Arctic Indigenous Peoples, to suspend their joint activities in protest of Russia’s unprovoked aggression.
“It’s so crucial for us to not lose sight of accelerating climate change, and to be making as much progress as possible,” Marisol Maddox, a senior arctic analyst at the Polar Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, said. “And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is creating serious challenges to that within the Arctic context, because of the way that that’s manifested with the pause of the Arctic Council, and all of its subsidiary bodies.”