WWF holds Iqaluit workshop on “Last Ice Area”

WWF wants to promote planning for big ice melt to come

By PETER VARGA

WWF hosted a two-day “Last Ice Area” workshop in Iqaluit on the decline of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and its


WWF hosted a two-day “Last Ice Area” workshop in Iqaluit on the decline of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and its “Last Ice Area” plan June 4 and 5. (FILE PHOTO)

The Arctic Ocean may be ice-free during the summer months by 2030 — and by then the last refuge for Arctic ice will be found off northern Nunavut, suggest some Arctic climate researchers.

With that in mind, the World Wildlife Fund hosted a two-day “Last Ice Area” workshop in Iqaluit June 4 and 5, to promote its “Last Ice Area” conservation plan for High Arctic region, where ice predicted to persist the longest in the face of climate change, and discuss what northerners within that last refuge of Arctic ice can expect.

“Planning for management of the last ice area is not the ultimate solution for securing a future for the sea ice ecosystem,” WWF states on its website. “Only action on reducing climate change can do that, but we believe planning for the future of the ice that will remain longest will give the ecosystem the best chance to recover from the effects of climate change.”

But the need to preserve that “last ice area” could come in less than 20 years.

“By 2030 to 2040 we expect a summer ice-free Arctic,” said Bruno Tremblay, an atmospheric and oceanic sciences researcher at McGill University, outside of the Iqaluit workshop, which was closed to public and members of the media.

By the end of the 21st century, much of Arctic Ocean may even be without any ice, year-round, if climate-warming greenhouse gases keep increasing as they are today, Tremblay said.

On the positive side, Tremblay said that ice on the Canadian side of the Arctic will stay in place longer than anywhere else, because prevailing winds in the Arctic blow ice towards Canada from Siberia.

“So the climate model says, in 50 to 100 years, you’re still going to have remnants of ice in this whole region,” said Tremblay, pointing to the islands of Canada’s High Arctic islands where ice will still be likely to form.

With the Inuit Circumpolar Council and other Inuit organizations in Canada and Greenland, WWF has been working on the “Last Ice Area” concept to gain their support and active leadership for the plan, Martin von Mirbach, the director of WWF’s Arctic program told Nunatsiaq News in a previous interview.

The idea behind “Last Ice Area” is to draw attention to vulnerable areas and look at the federal legislation that can encourage conservation.

And WWF hopes the “Last Ice Area” will encourage people in the Arctic and world-wide to start discussing the next steps to plan for that.

In 2011 Coca-Cola Canada committed $2 million over five years to WWF’s Last Ice Area plan, through its sales of white, polar-bear decorated Coke cans.

Last summer WWF staff, researchers, journalists, and a crew from the Al Jazeera television network sailed as far north as they could, chasing receding ice and meeting community members along the way.

The voyage took the team through the waters between Greenland and Canada’s High Arctic, WWF’s “last ice area,” where summer sea ice is projected to persist the longest.

with files from Jane George

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