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Climate Change and the Arctic

For most people in the United States and the world, changes caused by greenhouse gas emissions have not yet greatly affected day-to-day life. The same cannot be said for the communities, peoples and wildlife of the Arctic, where the climate is warming on average at about twice the rate of the rest of the world.

Climate change is causing a dramatic loss of sea ice in the Arctic. Levels recorded in 2007 were the lowest on record and some scientists now predict the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer by as early as 2013.

The Arctic is home to four million people and sensitive functioning ecosystems. Its inhabitants are seeing their very way of life threatened as sea ice is lost, ecosystems are restructured and weather patterns change.

Arctic communities rely on sea ice for hunting and fishing areas and other subsistence activities necessary for survival. As sea ice is lost and ice conditions become more unpredictable, those activities become more difficult.

The rapid warming now occurring in the Arctic has worldwide implications, and the decline of Arctic sea ice in particular provides measurable evidence suggesting that we may be approaching a point beyond which dangerous interference with the global climate system will result in significant impacts to the rest of the United States and the world.

The success of our effort can be measured by the health of the Arctic and while it is not yet too late, the changes already occurring there make it clear that greenhouse gas reductions must begin now.

Climate Change Petition

In November 2008, Oceana and other partners, including San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Native Village of Shishmaref, Alaska, petitioned the federal government to protect the health and welfare of the Arctic and ultimately the world by establishing comprehensive regulations for greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

The petition describes the impacts climate change is having in the Arctic right now and makes the case that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gases using the authority granted it under the Clean Air Act to protect the public health and welfare. The petitioners chose this approach because the authority the Clean Air Act grants EPA is currently the only mechanism through which a federal agency could regulate emissions of greenhouse gases.

Download the petition (3MB) -- http://oceana.org/fileadmin/oceana/uploads/pacific/ArcticPetition-FINAL-lowres.pdf