ARCTIC AMPLIFICATION

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    • In August 2022, Finnish Meteorological Institute researchers published their study concluding that the Arctic is heating four times faster than the rest of the planet. 
    • The warming is more concentrated in the Eurasian part of the Arctic, where the Barents Sea north of Russia and Norway is warming at an alarming rate — seven times faster than the global average. 

    Arctic amplification

    • Global warming, the long-term heating of the earth’s surface, hastened due to anthropogenic forces or human activities since pre-industrial times and has increased the planet’s average temperature by 1.1 degrees Celsius. 
    • While changes are witnessed across the planet, any change in the surface air temperature and the net radiation balance tend to produce larger changes at the north and south poles. This phenomenon is known as polar amplification. 
    • These changes are more pronounced at the northern latitudes and are known as the Arctic amplification.

    Causes of Arctic amplification

    • The ice-albedo feedback, lapse rate feedback, water vapour feedback and ocean heat transport are the primary causes. 
    • Sea ice and snow have high albedo (measure of reflectivity of the surface), implying that they are capable of reflecting most of the solar radiation as opposed to water and land. 
    • In the Arctic’s case, global warming is resulting in diminishing sea ice. As the sea ice melts, the Arctic Ocean will be more capable of absorbing solar radiation, thereby driving the amplification. 
    • Studies show that the ice-albedo feedback and the lapse rate feedback are responsible for 40% and 15% of polar amplification respectively. The lapse rate or the rate at which the temperature drops with elevation decreases with warming. 

    Consequences of Arctic warming (on India)

    • Rising Sea Level: Greenlandic ice sheet holds the second largest amount of ice, after Antarctica, and therefore it is crucial for maintaining the sea level. According to the World Meteorological Organization’s report, ‘State of Global Climate in 2021’, sea level along the Indian coast is rising faster than the global average rate. One of the primary reasons for this rise is the melting of sea ice in the polar regions, especially the Arctic. 
    • Global warming: The permafrost in the Arctic is thawing and in turn releasing carbon and methane which are among the major greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. 
    • Biodiversity: The warming of the Arctic Ocean and the seas in the region, the acidification of water, changes in the salinity levels, are impacting the biodiversity, including the marine species and the dependent species. 
    • Connectivity: Arctic’s ice meltdown and its geographical location will ensure shortest sea distance between America, Europe and North East Asia. This will likely transform the global maritime commerce, presently conducted through the traditional East–West route through the Malacca Strait and Suez Canal.

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    • Monsoons: The link between the impact the changing Arctic and monsoons in the India is growing in importance due to the extreme weather events the country faces, and the heavy reliance on rainfall for water and food security.
    • Mineral Resources: Arctic region has rich deposits of coal, gypsum and diamonds and also substantial reserves of zinc, lead, placer gold and quartz. Greenland alone possesses about a quarter of world’s rare earth reserves. 
    • Hydrocarbons: The Arctic also contains a wealth of hydrocarbon resources. India is the third-largest energy-consuming country in the world. Arctic can therefore potentially address India’s energy security needs.
    • Geopolitics: The melting Arctic ice is also raising the geopolitical temperatures. In 2018, China’s White Paper on Arctic policy called itself a ‘Near-Arctic State’. The opening of the shipping routes and possibilities of increased resource extraction is leading to the big three—US, China and Russia—and NATO, jockeying for position and influence in the region.

     

    Initiatives by India

    • India’s association with the Arctic is over 100 years old, having been one of the original High Contracting Parties to the Svalbard (formerly Spitsbergen) Treaty in February 1920. 
    • Indian research station ‘Himadri’ at Ny-Ålesund was dedicated to the nation in 2008, making India the only developing country apart from China to have an Arctic research base.
    • In 2014, India deployed IndARC, India’s first moored-underwater observatory in the Kongsfjorden fjord, Svalbard, to monitor the impact of the changes in the Arctic Ocean on the tropical processes such as the monsoons.

    India’s Arctic Policy

    • In March 2022, Government of India released India’s Arctic Policy titled “India’s Arctic Policy: Building a Partnership for Sustainable Development”.
    • The six pillars of the Policy are as follows:
      • Science and Research
      • Economic and Human Development Cooperation
      • Climate and Environmental Protection
      • Transportation and Connectivity
      • Governance and International Cooperation
      • National Capacity Building

    Concluding Remarks

    • In keeping with India’s civilisational ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam—the world is but one family, India’s Arctic Policy is inclusive and participative wherein India offers its readiness to “play its part and contribute to the global good”.

    Question 

    In the background of Arctic amplification, the Arctic is now an important geographical categorisation in India’s global policies. Elaborate.