UN report: Climate change threatens Arctic food security, sea ice
As the climate warms, the report notes that animals around the globe will move farther north, specifically fish populations. The data suggest some regions, like tropical oceans, will see a decline in species.
Others, like the Arctic, will see increases, the report states. Communities that depend on seafood could face risks to nutritional health and food security.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, changes like the ones predicted in the report can cause significant disruption to Alaska's ecosystem.
"It can bring a new predator to a system, it can rob existing species of their food, and we may see some of that in the Bering Sea," explained Margaret Williams, managing director of WWF's Arctic Program.
The U.N. panel also reports that the Arctic Ocean could reach ice-free levels once every three years, and 70% of near-surface permafrost could be lost if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly.
"The permafrost contains twice the amount of carbon that's in the atmosphere," Williams said."And so as that thaws, more greenhouse gases are released, and that accelerates this warming process that we're seeing."
Melting sea ice has already contributed to the decline of polar bears in the Arctic. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the animal as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, based on current and predicted populations.
"The changes in the sea ice are not happening uniformly across the Arctic, so some polar bears will certainly feel the brunt and already are feeling the impacts severely," Williams noted. "Other polar bears will have a different experience because the sea ice is changing in different parts of the Arctic differently."
As for Alaskans, Williams says they're more resilient.
"Despite these very difficult impacts that we should expect, if we take action now, in the future we're going to have a much easier time," Williams said.
In May, the Municipality of Anchorage adopted a Climate Action Plan that outlines a framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change impacts.
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