Saturday, 15 February 2014: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Toronto (Hyatt Regency Chicago)The unexpected record low in Arctic sea ice extent in 2012 is only one of the many indications that the Arctic is changing at a rapid pace. The northern high latitudes warm twice as fast as the rest of the world, Greenland glaciers release hundreds of gigatons of ice into the ocean each year, and polar ecosystems are backing out. What was formerly a vast and icy desert, home only to polar bears and to people who have adapted over centuries to this hostile environment, may soon become an area for thriving economic activities. While some see their traditional way of life made impossible or a unique natural heritage endangered, others are already reaching for the treasures that were buried under Arctic sea ice and glaciers as their melting makes oil, gas, and other raw material accessible. The ice-free ocean offers a tempting shortcut for shipping routes to Asia. Climate change in the Arctic may offer economic opportunities, but dramatic run-away effects in this vital and vulnerable part of our planet may well kick the entire Earth's climate system out of balance. What are the knock-on effects of Arctic change on other parts of the world regarding climate, ecosystems, economy, and geo-strategic issues? How can societies deal with the tension between the desire to preserve and the lust to exploit?
Franz Immler, European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation
Andrea Tilche, European Commission, Directorate General for Research and Innovation