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Three Signs Of Climate Change In The Polar Regions

Climate change continues to be a hot topic and one that polarises (no pun intended) opinions. Some say that statistics are manipulated to make us think that the issue is worse than it is, whilst others believe that unless we change our habits we could soon lose fragile ecosystems altogether.

Those who love to travel may be concerned that climate change will affect their chances of seeing certain places before they disappear, not to mention the larger impact that this could have on the Earth as a whole. The Polar Regions are amongst the places most susceptible to global warming and we can all conquer that losing these beautiful landscapes would be a travesty. Nevertheless, there are some worrying signs that climate change is already altering the extreme north and south of our planet.

Polar Bears Seen Further South

Polar Bear Hunting

Every year, residents of Canadian towns such as Churchill, Manitoba have to be vigilant to the sight of polar bears. There have been populations of these animals here for many years, but it seems they are becoming more brazen and desperate in their search for food. The majestic bears can only hunt seals and other prey where there is sea ice and so when this starts to retreat they are left with dwindling food supplies. This, in turn, drives them into the towns and villages in search of alternatives.

Locals note that, in their desperation, they are now less perturbed by the measures put in place to scare them away and are thus causing more problems in the area. Last year, a photo of a malnourished polar bear sparked real concerns. If weight loss continues, especially in females who have to rear cubs whilst also looking after themselves, numbers could drop significantly.

Antarctic CO2 Levels On The Rise

CO2

A recent scientific report shows that levels of CO2 in Antarctica have reached 400 parts per million for the first time in 4 million years. This unwanted record comes after other, more populated, parts of the world passed this milestone a few years back.

As it takes time for the CO2 to be distributed to more remote areas, the South Pole Observatory carbon dioxide observing station has only just recorded these levels. Some believe that the threshold has now been surpassed permanently and that if we don’t adopt new behaviours we could see this increase further in our lifetimes.

Arctic Ice Retreating

Melting Sea Ice

Whilst we reported on NASA research that pointed to Antarctic ice growth at the end of last year, findings from the latest winter in the Arctic seem to show the opposite is happening in the northern hemisphere. Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole is not a fixed land mass and is instead made up of ice that recedes during the summer and forms again over the winter.

However, 2016 was the second year in a row when the maximum levels that the ice reached was measured at a record low, peaking at 5.607 million square miles. With record high temperatures also recorded, the worry is that this problem could perpetuate the issue with polar bears mentioned above.

What’s Being Done?

Hurtigruten Battery Powered Ships

On a global scale, the biggest step forward in recent years has been the signing of the Paris Agreement that took place in April. When it comes to companies working in tourism, there are a number of great initiatives being put in place. All of the expedition cruise operators we work with have programs by which they help protect the destinations they visit.

Whilst following specific laws set out by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), they also have initiatives to balance their carbon footprints and give back to the local community. In addition, cruise lines are improving their ships to reduce the impact they have on the environment. For example, Hurtigruten has already started work on making battery-powered vessels a reality.

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