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Arctic climate change takes aim at coastal villages

WASHINGTON - An eight-nation report on climate change has confirmed that
Arctic warming is under way and that human activity is the probable cause.

The Arctic Council released its four-year, 144-page study on Nov. 9, and an
early summary appeared in the NewYork Times. The principle finding is that
Arctic air leads the world in average temperature increase. Socalled
greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide emissions released into the
atmosphere where they trap heat, are thought in many quarters to have
caused the global warming trend of an average 1 degree Fahrenheit over the
past century.

The comprehensive Arctic Council findings confirm previous evidence of a
much higher average temperature increase across the Arctic. Though no
unanimity exists as to the reason(s) for this relative Arctic heat wave, a
leading candidate is melting ice. Sun rays reflected off ice generate
fractional radiation - heat energy. But as icepacks melt, the surface
beneath of earth or water absorbs the energy, leading to accelerated
melting.

Human and animal communities can buy time to adapt by reducing greenhouse
gas emissions, according to the report. But the build-up of heat-containing
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere throughout at least the past century means
the warming trend will inevitably play out in some part, with consequences
that are global, unavoidable, and to a degree unknown.

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For instance, fears focus on the miles-high Greenland ice sheets. Their
accelerated melting would raise the level of every sea the world over by 25
feet if the melt were total - not a likely scenario, but then Greenland's
are not the only melting ice fields.

In Alaska, the "tundra travel" season - days when the tundra is firm enough
for traversal - has been halved since 1970. On the west coast of Alaska,
Native villages are even now threatened with eradication as coastlines of
softening permafrost and rivers, swollen with waves from the ice shelf
meltdown, combine to produce rapid coastal erosion. The Los Angeles Times,
reaching out to cover its own coastal community, gave front-page treatment
to one such Yupik village, Newtok on the Ninglick River, in its Oct. 28
edition.

The Arctic Council report involved the efforts of some 300 scientists and
Native elders from its eight member countries of Canada, Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States. Its
policy recommendations are due out Nov. 24.