Brian Brettschneider: How climate change has already arrived in the Arctic

By John Krzyzaniak, May 4, 2020

The Alaska National Guard has been used to fight extensive Alaskan wildfires. (Photo by Sherman Hogue/Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Office.) The Alaska National Guard has been used to fight extensive Alaskan wildfires. (Photo by Sherman Hogue/Fort Wainwright Public Affairs Office.)

Anyone who has ever tried to convince a hesitant friend or family member that climate change is really happening can attest to the difficulty of the task. Many of the clearest indicators, such as statistics on global carbon emissions, are impersonal and abstract. Even graphs showing how temperatures have risen over the last 150 years do not always resonate on a personal level, despite their visual simplicity.

What’s much more likely to resonate are tangible, discernable impacts: hotter heat waves, bigger hurricanes, dryer droughts. Across the globe, there are many such signs, and those who confront them regularly in their day-to-day lives are probably most receptive to the scientific truth of global warming.

To learn more about the palpable effects of climate change in Alaska and the Arctic, I spoke with Brian Brettschneider, a research associate at the International Arctic Research Center based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Brettschneider says that the last few years have brought not only major events such as record-low sea ice in the Bering Sea and unprecedented Arctic wildfires, but also changes that are perhaps less stark, such as shifting tree lines, glacial melt, and changing vegetation. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Read this premium article here.

As the coronavirus crisis shows, we need science now more than ever.

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