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Polar

CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE ARCTIC HAS GLOBAL IMPACTS
NEW CHEMICALS FOUND IN ARCTIC WILDLIFE AND PEOPLES
BIOPROSPECTING IN THE ANTARCTIC
INCREASE IN TOURISTS TO ANTARCTICA
CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE

Predicted climate changes in the Arctic could have serious economic, cultural, environmental and health impacts. Runoff from melting glaciers and the Greenland icecap could raise global sea levels and disrupt ocean circulation. Arctic animal species' diversity, ranges and distributions will change. In the Antarctic, bioprospecting and tourism are issues of increasing concern.

Key Facts

  • Antarctica has a land area of 14 million km2. It is the coldest place on Earth and is almost entirely covered by ice. Only approximately 2 per cent of the land is barren rock. Antarctica 's flora consist mainly of lichens, mosses and algal species
  • There are both permanent and summer-only research stations on the continent, so the population in Antarctica varies from some 1 000 people during winter to 4 000 people during summer.
  • The Antarctic Treaty, which entered into force on 23 June 1961, establishes the legal framework for the management of the continent. The objectives of the Treaty are: the use of Antarctica for peaceful purposes only; to promote international scientific cooperation; and to avoid disputes over territorial sovereignty.
  • The Arctic region is composed of eight nations surrounding the Arctic Ocean: Canada, Denmark (Greenland and the Faeroe Islands), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.
  • The Arctic encompasses about 13.4 million km2 with a population of only 3.5 million people, a density of 0.26 people per km2.
  • The indigenous peoples of the Arctic are estimated to comprise nearly 650 000 individuals, most of whom live in northern Russia.
  • Estimates suggest that 25 per cent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic.

Sources: AMAP 2003, CIA 2004, Midttun 2004, Nation Master 2004, NERC 2004, UNEP 2002

 

 


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