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We have all seen the photos: a polar bear sits, trapped, on a small piece of ice as it floats away and melts into the unforgiving Arctic Ocean. As Earth's climate continues to warm at a potentially catastrophic rate, the melting Arctic has become a symbol of the negative effect that humans have had on our planet. Indeed, a speech recently given by Kristin Iglum, Consul General of Norway in Shanghai, emphasized that the effects of climate change will have a much larger impact on people and the environment than any of us realizes right now.

Kristin Iglum, Consul General of Norway in Shanghai Photos: Courtesy of the Consulate General of Norway in Shanghai

Front-row seat to the apocalypse

"The Arctic may be very far away from the rest of the world, but its future will nevertheless affect most of us. The melting arctic sea ice will not only affect polar bears, it will also affect ourselves," Iglum said at an Arctic Science Salon organized Saturday by the Consulate General of Norway in Shanghai.

The world is currently witnessing the calamitous effects of climate change. Rapidly rising sea levels, intense weather events, mass extinction of wildlife and other apocalyptic indicators have shown us that our collective future may look very different from our past.

In many parts of the world, these changes have come almost imperceptibly slow. But for people living in polar regions, the effects of climate change have been dramatic. "In the high-north, you have a front-row seat to these changes in the climate," the Consul General said.

It is undeniably true that the polar regions have, in recent years, seen the most serious effects of climate change. The level of warming in the Arctic is much higher than in other parts of the world.

As ice and snow continue to melt at an unprecedented rate, their vitally important reflective properties are lost. In turn, tracts of open water or exposed soil absorb more heat from the sun and exacerbate the warming process even further.

Because of this accelerated warming, sea ice in the Arctic Ocean has been reduced by at least half in just the past 30 years, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder Colorado. Furthermore, the yearly minimum sea ice volume has dropped to one-fifth of what it was three decades prior. Meaning, not only is sea ice dwindling, it is also dangerously thinner than it once was.

Audience at the Arctic Science Salon

Soliciting knowledge

The importance of this calamity cannot be overstated. The melting of the polar ice caps will have a profound effect on polar ecosystems and, consequently, will have a massive impact on human and animal food supplies.

In particular, many species of fish such as Mackerel, Herring, and Atlantic Cod will be endangered, as they only can thrive in the ice-cold waters of the Arctic Ocean and Northern Atlantic Ocean.

Communities in the high-north have the greatest number of challenges ahead of them, but innovations in science and sustainable technology are turning their future outlook just a little bit brighter. In her statement, Consul General Iglum reiterated Norway's commitment to these communities.

"The Norwegian government wants to establish and stimulate settlements and growth in the high-north by developing local industries. But, in order to understand both the climate change going on there and secure sustainable business development, we really have a great need for knowledge from scientists," Iglum said.

In order to solicit such knowledge from scientists around the world, including China, the Norwegian government has created platforms where environmental organizations, media and businesses can exchange their views and research about climate change and other environmental catastrophes affecting the high-north.

One such platform is the upcoming Arctic Frontiers 2018 conference, which will be held for the 12th year in Tromsø, Norway, between January 21 and 26. Arctic Frontiers is an international arena on sustainable development in the Arctic. The conference addresses the management of opportunities and challenges to achieve viable economic growth with societal and environmental sustainability.

Arctic Frontiers brings academia, government and business together to create a firmer foundation for decision-making and sustainable economic development. The consulate will have a special focus on Arctic Frontier Young and promote Arctic Science via social media channels and welcomes Chinese participation.

The conference organizers are currently accepting papers on addressing the following topics: Aquaculture in the High North in Times of Change; The New Arctic in the Global Context; Resilient Arctic Societies and Industrial Development; Circumpolar Safety, Search and Rescue Collaboration.

Participants of the salon

The polar arts

Last weekend's event in Shanghai made specific efforts to invite Chinese academics to submit and present their work at the Tromsø conference.

Chinese researchers have been working in the Arctic for decades, in fact, an effort that has intensified since the establishment of China's Arctic Yellow River Station in Svalbard, Norway. In 1994, China also commissioned the icebreaker Xuelong (literally "Ice Dragon") to be used by the People's Republic of China as a research vessel.

Chinese researchers are profoundly concerned with tracking the melting of Arctic sea ice, and how those changes will affect currents along China's coasts.

A key part of the process of scientific inquiry is how new findings are communicated to the public. Wang Yuyuan is personally tackling this problem with his artwork which, while in line with Chinese traditions in calligraphy and ceramics, draws on Arctic landscapes for inspiration.

Wang believes that through art, people can become more aware about what is going on in the high-north. "The combination of science and art is one of the most important ways for science to become more popular, said Wang, who introduced his artwork at the recent Arctic Science Salon in Shanghai.

"I hope more artists can participate in the creation of the polar arts, to make more people understand the polar regions and help protect them."

This article was written by Katie Kelly.

Salon speakers discuss climate change.


Salon speakers discuss climate change.


Salon speakers discuss climate change.