Wind power production in the Arctic. Photo: iStock

The Arctic in a changing climate

The temperatures in the Arctic continue to rise at more than twice the global annual average, driving many of the changes underway in the Arctic. Most prominently, snow and ice are melting at an increasing rate. This impacts both local ecosystems and the global climate system. It contributes to rising sea levels, and is likely to provoke extreme temperature events beyond the Arctic. The effects of a shifting Arctic climate are felt across the high latitudes and beyond – with global environmental, economic, and social implications.

While the effects of climate change are pronounced in the Arctic, their causes are often linked to activities taking place outside the region. This underlines the importance to raise awareness of Arctic change on a global level, and to integrate Arctic issues in global frameworks and conventions. The Arctic Council and its Working Groups are therefore collaborating closely with the Council’s Observer states and organizations and other stakeholders on addressing the implications of a changing climate in the high North.

How does the Arctic Council address the changing Arctic climate and its effects?

Acknowledging the scope of the changes taking place and their possible effects on livelihoods, societies, the environment and economy, the Council’s Working Groups commit to working closely together. Through their ever-growing body of reports and assessments, the Arctic Council serves as knowledge broker and global advocate for Arctic topics.

Climate change and adaptation actions

Understanding how climate change will affect the climate system and ecosystems is key to adapting livelihoods and to inform decision making on regional, national and international levels. AMAP has developed landmark assessments on climate impacts in the Arctic for more than 20 years and is continuing to do so.

In close collaboration, AMAP and CAFF are also assessing climate impacts on Arctic marine, coastal, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, as well as ecosystem feedbacks to climate.

PAME is developing Factsheets related to MPAs and Indigenous Peoples’ Lives in a changing climate in collaboration with AMAP and CAFF. PAME is engaged with ICES and PICES for the purpose of information and synergies on their work on Integrated Ecosystem Assessment of the Central Arctic Ocean (WGICA).

Wildfires are an emerging topic across Arctic Council Working Groups. As the environment and communities in the circumpolar North have been affected by unprecedented wildfires over the past few years, Arctic States and Permanent Participants provide specific expertise for a holistic approach on how to tackle future wildfire seasons.

Green energy solutions

The Icelandic Chairmanship of the Arctic Council (2019-2021) has made the development and application of practical green energy solutions in the Arctic region a priority during its two-year term. These solutions are aiming at enabling communities to reduce emissions and improve air quality. Thus, the Arctic Council continues to promote knowledge exchange and aims to support small and remote Arctic communities in transitioning to sustainable energy.


Resilience is the capacity of communities and systems to recover and restore themselves from crises and disturbances. The Arctic region is changing rapidly, and the speed of ongoing change makes adaptation extremely challenging. Governments, Indigenous peoples, local communities, researchers, and businesses are therefore working together to build resilience to the social-ecological changes that are underway in the Arctic – and it is a cross-cutting theme across the Arctic Council’s Working Groups.

Featured Projects

Permafrost erosion in Alaska. Photo: USGS / M. Torre Jorgenson
Climate Issues: Cryosphere, meteorology, ecosystem impacts
AMAP is further developing work on thresholds and extremes, Arctic/mid-latitude weather connections and performance of global models in the Arctic, with contributions from the meteorology community. T...
Soot on ice. Photo:iStock
Arctic Black Carbon Case Studies Platform
Across the Arctic, countries and communities are taking action to reduce black carbon emissions. The Black carbon case studies platform highlights mitigation projects and policies relevant to the Arct...
Arctic Resilience Action Framework (ARAF)
The ARAF is a framework to advance a coordinated, regional approach to building resilience and adapting to rapid change.
Arctic Remote Energy Networks Academy (ARENA)
ARENA seeks to increase human capacity, promote leadership, and deploy traditional and local knowledge through the creation of a knowledge exchange program emphasizing the development, operation, and ...
Water sampling in the Arctic. Photo: Steve Hillebrand/CAFF
Freshwater Biodiversity Monitoring
Changes in water temperature, permafrost, ice cover extent and duration, hydrological processes and water balance can have unexpected and unpredictable effects on freshwater biodiversity and related e...
Photo: CAFF
Terrestrial Biodiversity Monitoring
Temperature can affect terrestrial ecosystems through thawing permafrost, snowmelt, drought, fires, changes in phenology (with subsequent implications on the food web), encroachment of invasive specie...

Arctic climate making headlines

Innovating the food industry on the top of the world

For millennia, food production has supported population growth, the development of towns and cities, trade and other elements essential to successful human development. Y...
11 Sep 2020

As millions of acres burn in the Arctic, creating a common language around wildfire management is key

Record-setting wildfire seasons are becoming a new normal in the Arctic. While uncontrolled wildfires are devastating, could fire also be a tool for biodiversity and miti...
07 Sep 2020

Significant economic and environmental gains can be achieved by applying Best Available Technology in the oil sector in the Arctic

The Arctic Council’s Arctic Contaminant Action Program (ACAP) has completed a study on flaring of associated petroleum gas in the Russian Arctic. The report shows that si...
25 Jun 2020
See all