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Toxic Chemicals and Global Climate Change

Splitting Walrus Hide
Splitting walrus hide

The Arctic is on the frontline of climate change. Temperatures in the Arctic are warming 5-10 times faster than elsewhere in the world. Scientists forecast that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free by 2040, with profound effects on ice-dependent species such as polar bear, walrus, spotted seal, ringed seal, bearded seal, and ribbon seal. Global climate change may be exacerbating contamination in the Arctic because of enhanced mobilization and transport of persistent organic pollutants from local and distant sources.

Increasing storm surges, melting permafrost, and sea ice disappearance are among the most dramatic effects of climate warming in the Arctic. As the climate warms, contaminants contained in permafrost, glaciers, and sea ice release into the surrounding environment. Melting sea ice exposes more ocean surface, creating more area where global contaminants can be deposited. Atmospheric loading of contaminants to the ocean surface is increased as sea ice retreats.

Climate change of the Arctic threatens coastal communities and their means of subsistence. Indigenous Arctic populations are uniquely vulnerable to climate change because of their close relationship with, and dependence on, the land, sea and natural resources for their cultural, social, economic and physical well-being. Some communities along the Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea are already preparing for re-location. Climate change also causes more rapid dispersal of contaminants into freshwater and marine environments, thus more directly affecting the health of fish and marine mammals that serve as the primary traditional foods for northern Indigenous peoples.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics advocates for the need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other sources. We help to bring to light the synergistic impacts of toxic compounds and climate change as we work to eliminate the production and use of the world’s most toxic and persistent chemicals.



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