A major part of the Barents region is located in the Arctic, where climate is warming faster than in any other part of the globe. According to the newest scientific estimates, the surface temperature in the High North may rise even by 10°C by the end of this century. In addition to long-term temperature data that show a clear rising trend, observations e.g. from Finnish Lapland prove that the snow-covered period has become shorter and the area of distribution of cold-adapted bird species has shifted northwards.
Extinction of northern plant and animal species and the spreading out of pests are some possible consequences of the rapid warming. Extreme weather conditions, changes in precipitation, more intense droughts and floods and melting of permafrost may result in serious damages to ecosystems, infrastructure and human health in the North. Especially vulnerable to the changes are the traditional lifestyles of the indigenous peoples, who are also facing more pressure due the intensifying economic activities in the North.
To address the challenge of climate change, the Ministers of Environment of the Barents countries adopted an Action Plan on Climate Change for Barents co-operation in late 2013. The plan includes several recommendations for actions to mitigate climate change and to adapt to the ongoing change, make scientific observations and raise awareness on the issue. All the working groups under BEAC are encouraged to take actions – this is also one of the priorities of the Finnish BEAC chairmanship in 2014-15. In this BarentsSaga we present some of the on-going activities.
Tuuli Ojala - Climate, Environment and Hot Spots Adviser, International Barents Secretariat