A bleak future

Rapid industrialisation poses a threat to the Arctic region

Published: Sunday 15 July 2001

Human interference threatens t At least 80 per cent of the Arctic will be damaged by 2050, if industrialisation continues at current rates, claim scientists of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Activities such as mining, oil and gas exploration and construction of roads are threatening the Arctic's rich and abundant wildlife, with birds and larger mammals such as reindeer, caribou, polar bears, wolves and brown bears at the highest risks. These are the findings of unep's global methodology for mapping human impacts on the biosphere (GLOBIO), which for the first time has analysed the cumulative impacts of human activities on the environment.

"At the turn of this millennium, less than 15 per cent of the Arctic's land was heavily impacted by human activity and infrastructure. However, if exploration for oil, gas and minerals, developments such as hydro-electric schemes and timber extraction continue at current rates, more than half of the Arctic will be seriously threatened in less than 50 years," says Klaus Tpfer, executive director of unep.

The report estimates significant human disturbance even at lower growth rates of infrastructure. It concludes that 40 per cent of the region's wildlife and ecosystems will be critically disturbed by 2050, if growth occurs at 50 per cent of levels seen since the period 1940 to 1990. If infrastructure growth accelerates, increasing by 200 per cent over the same period, 90 per cent of the Arctic will suffer significant human-induced disturbance by 2050.

Studies of more than 100 species show that some Arctic animals will suffer as the region becomes industrialised. The Arctic birds will suffer due to the drainage of wetlands for development and increase in noise pollution from vehicles.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.