UN supports twoyear expedition probing Arctic climate change


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“They are helping relay the message that what happens at the poles should be of utmost concern to us all,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said of the Tara Expeditions and the Arctic Drift project, Tara Arctic 2007-2008. As part of the International Polar Year that begins in March 2007), the polar schooner Tara leaves Lorient, France, today for the Arctic where it will be locked in the ice and drift across the region, providing an unprecedented platform for scientific observations and research on how the Arctic environment is changing.Two years ago, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), an unprecedented four-year scientific study by an international team of 300 scientists, provided clear evidence that the Arctic climate is warming rapidly now and, of even greater concern, that much larger changes are projected for the future. ACIA predicted that Arctic vegetation zones and animal species will be affected. Retreating sea ice is expected to reduce the habitat for polar bears, walrus, ice-inhabiting seals, and marine birds, threatening some species with extinction. Such changes will also affect many indigenous communities who depend on such animals, not only for food, but also as the basis for cultural and social identity,UNEP noted. And, beyond the region, as the Arctic glaciers melt and the permafrost thaws, it will be developing countries, with limited means to adapt to environmental change that suffer most. Tara’s progress can be followed on the UNEP web site http://www.unep.org

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