Bangladesh should and must be among the observers in the Arctic Council. If all ice from the Greenland Ice Sheets and from the mountains of the Arctic were to melt, global sea level will rise ~7.9 m. Then Bangladesh does not stand a chance!! Humankind must appreciate – sea level was 4 to 6 m higher than now during the Last Interglacial 125,000 years back.

Since 1900, the summer ice cover of the frozen sea, the Arctic, has reduced over 4 million km2 – an area equivalent to 28 Bangladesh and larger than the total global cropland in 1700. The increase in the Arctic’s temperature is twice high than the rest of the world, observed between 2005 and 2009.Due climate change, global temperature projected to rise between 2degree centigrade and 5.2 degree centigrade by 2100 in the most optimistic (RCP 2.6) and in the worst greenhouse gas emission scenario (RCP 8.5).  This may trigger ~10 degree centigrade rise in surface temperature in the Arctic, almost similar to the temperature of  the Pliocene- Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 60 to 30 million years ago (13 ± 2.6degree centigrade)when the planet was ice free.

The effects of the current climate changes in the Arctic cryosphere are crystal clean regardless of their comparison with the PETM. The Arctic has been warming since the measurements begun in 1880. Average winter ice thickness changed from 3.64 m to 1.89 m between the winters of 1980 and 2008.  The Arctic land area, covered by snow in early summer, has fallen by 18% since 1966. Permafrost has warmed by up to 2 degree centigrade since the 1980s. The loss of mass from the Greenland Ice Sheet has increased four folds between 1995–2000 and 2005–2006.  Nearly all mountain glaciers and ice caps in the Arctic have retreated over the past 100 years. The total loss of ice from them probably exceeded ~150 Gt/yr in the last decade.

Arctic’s governance, run by the Arctic Council of the eight Arctic states, has 6 permanent participants, 6 working groups and 38 observers. Observer status is open to non-arctic states, intergovernmental, inter-parliamentary and non-governmental organisations. India, China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan are among the observers. India is not only observer they have also permanent research station (Himadri) there.

The Council’s own data and research projected Bangladesh as the most vulnerable country due to melting ice and glaciers in the Arctic. It is absolutely vital Bangladesh gets regular yearly update on the changes in the Arctic cryosphere directly from the Council.  But strangely-Bangladesh is not yet an observer in the Arctic Council.

The writer is MSc PhD, University of London, UK  


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