What happens in the polar regions does not stay in the polar regions. It strikes the entire planet, breaking down our doors with disastrous consequences: rising sea levels; increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events; catastrophic droughts and floods; accelerating ocean acidification; disruption of ecosystems; and the loss of biodiversity.
Global warming is occurring two to three times faster at the poles than anywhere else in the world due to what is known as the “polar amplification process”, resulting in part from the highly reflective and absorbing power of ice and heat transfer by ocean currents towards the poles. The effects are multiple: melting of the Arctic sea ice in summer; loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet; the decomposition of the Antarctic ice sheet; permafrost degradation leading to further CO2 and methane emissions; changes in the chemistry of the Arctic and Southern Oceans; changes in the carbon cycle that determine ocean productivity; disruption of terrestrial and marine species composition; and geographic shifts of ecosystems and species.
All intertwine in a cascade of environmental impacts and responses within complex interconnected systems that have serious consequences not only for communities living in the Arctic or around Antarctica, but also for our planet and our societies. .
When the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its special report on the ocean and the cryosphere in the context of climate change in Monaco in 2019, IPCC experts highlighted the disruptive consequences of melting ice and thawing permafrost while confirming the direct link with the human-induced climate change.
Although the report identified that more than 600 million people living in coastal areas will see their lives affected by 2050, many have already experienced homes and lives disrupted by catastrophic coastal flooding and beach erosion. Climate change is accelerating the natural processes of reshaping the waterfront as near Cape Cod and, currently, the Florida and South Carolina coastlines with the destruction wrought by Hurricane Ian.
It is imperative to give voice to the polar regions through the eyes and minds of the experts and communities who know these regions best. My Foundation’s Polar Initiative is dedicated to identifying the connectivity between climate impacts and polar change, and inspiring us to implement effective solutions.
Recognizing both the risks and opportunities presented, it is critical to further investigate the scale, scale and acceleration of change in these regions. While experts can alert and inform us of current changes and threats, it is up to all of us to take appropriate mitigation and adaptation actions to ensure a healthy planet.
The 21st century brings new challenges. There is no doubt that a global approach is urgently needed, collectively and individually, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as they are the main cause of degradation of the polar regions, and therefore of the planet. whole.
The poles are the engine of the planet’s oceanic and atmospheric fluxes. Our ability to track change, predict developments and influences, study and anticipate impacts will greatly determine the roadmaps we need to put in place to build collective resilience. Priority should be given to increasing investment in polar research, identifying appropriate technologies suited to these challenging environments, and promoting multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches in research and technical teams. Above all, we must intensify international scientific cooperation involving specialists working at both poles, in accordance with the solid foundations laid by the scientists who participated in the polar symposium co-organized by my foundation and our partners, Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research, International Arctic Science Commission, and the Oceanographic Institute of Monaco, in the Principality, in February 2022.
Solutions for change and progress require scientific facts with the commitment of global partnerships and definitive local and national actions, solutions and funds, dedicated to global planetary health.
Not one foundation, not one country, not one individual or NGO can win this climate battle alone. The Arctic and Antarctic regions are among the most vulnerable places in the world. Our responsibility must be to act collectively to protect and preserve these regions. By recognizing and examining the red flags sent by a disrupted environment, I am convinced that together we can drive real societal change and find the solutions for a sustainable future.
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco is the founder of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.