NOAA Report Card Set to Confirm Arctic is Ailing. Will Policymakers Heed Its Warnings for Their Countries?

Statement by Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Dec 11, 2023

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WASHINGTON—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will release its annual Arctic Report Card tomorrow. The report release is much anticipated given what data has already revealed over the course of this year. Namely, 2023 continued an alarming trend with the last 17 years marking the lowest 17 for annual minimum sea ice extent in the satellite record. This report is slated for release on the final day of the U.N. climate change talks—also called COP28— in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and during what is expected to be the hottest year in recorded history.

Below is a statement by Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, the director of climate science at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Dr. Ekwurzel is co-author of the fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II. Prior to joining UCS, she conducted climate research in the Arctic, including the North Pole.

“This annual report offers a devastating accounting of the state of the Arctic—a region that has warmed at a rate about three times faster than the Earth as a whole. These escalating temperatures have contributed to a record-breaking season of boreal wildfires in Canada and days when the global average temperature exceeded 2 degrees Celsius of warming above the pre-industrial average.

“What we’re seeing isn’t normal and the irreversible climate harms caused by an overheating Arctic will continue to reverberate across North America and Eurasia. From more intense snowstorms to more frequent polar vortex disturbances to extreme heat, no corner of the world will be left unaffected given ice loss contributions to global sea level rise.

“The Arctic is ailing and it’s imperative that U.S. and global policymakers heed its warnings for where they live. All countries, but especially wealthy, high-emitting nations, need to drastically reduce heat-trapping emissions at a rapid pace in accord with the latest science. Working with communities that are adapting to mounting climate change impacts is also essential. Combining Indigenous knowledge and science-based approaches is paramount on both these fronts.

“It’s time that world leaders place the wellbeing of people and ecosystems above the narrow self-interests of the fossil fuel industry and other major polluters. The fate of current and future generations is at stake.”

Dr. Ekwurzel has extensive experience doing live and taped TV, radio, and print interviews with international, national and state media outlets. If you have any questions or would like to arrange an interview with her, please contact UCS Climate and Energy Media Manager Ashley Siefert Nunes.