Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Poles Threaten “Climate Chaos” from Continued Warming

May 13, 2019

But fast action can cut warming quickly, slow feedbacks, and reduce risk of tipping points

To help reduce the worst of climate impacts, it is fundamental to understand Earth’s Polar Regions. The Poles are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures, and are home to a number of globally consequential tipping elements and climate feedback loops that could permanently alter the state of the global and regional climate. As temperatures rise, these Polar mechanisms bring us closer and closer to irreversible climate change.

IGSD’s Primer on Polar Warming and Implications for Global Climate Change provides a detailed explanation of the current state of the climate as it pertains to the Polar Regions and projections of how that may change in the future, particularly in the near term. A general discussion of feedbacks and tipping points provides the background for a deep understanding of issues specific to the Polar Regions: declining Arctic sea ice, thawing permafrost, and melting of the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica that can contribute to significant sea-level rise.

The Polar Primer highlights research on fast mitigation to reduce the rate of warming, especially through cuts to short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs), including methane, tropospheric ozone, black carbon, and HFCs, which are being phased down under the 2016 Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.The Polar Primer notes organizations currently working in the realm of SLCPs or the Polar Regions, including additional existing legal and political frameworks and opportunities for enhancing action for added benefit and greater likelihood of achieving the Paris Agreement goals.

As with other IGSD primers, this working paper will be updated regularly with the latest scientific and policy information.

IGSD Primer, Polar Warming and Implications for Global Climate Change, available for download here.