New Scientist senior consultant Anderson debuts with a dazzling account of the rapidly changing Arctic environment.
Although the author lands a few punches on the near-sighted noses of those who deny global warming, he mostly ignores them and focuses on key factors in the change, significant consequences that continuing change would deliver and some good-news/bad-news ambiguities. All Arctic ice scientists and other northland specialists agree that the summer of 2007 was significant. More than 1.1 million square miles of ice turned to water, rapidly advancing the date when the Arctic could see summers virtually clear of all ice, a situation that would have dire consequences for wildlife now living in the region. Anderson begins and ends his narrative with polar bears, current monarchs of the Arctic. Without ice-ways to take them to their prey, particularly seals, they starve and retreat. Seals will also suffer, and warmer waters will bring southern fish species north, followed by the fishing boats that pursue them with such rapacity. Anderson blasts ineffectual government regulation of commercial fishing and lists the species that toothless policies have devastated. The author also examines the effects on the indigenous peoples living in the region, the geopolitics involved (who owns the Arctic? how are claims established or negotiated?), the difficulties of extracting the region’s important natural resources and the potential devastation wrought by oil spills caused by greatly increased tanker traffic. The breadth of Anderson’s research is exhaustive, and his conclusions are simultaneously convincing and frightening.
A satisfying blend of graceful writing, riveting data, troubling paradoxes, alarming possibilities and chilling scenarios.