Arctic images in the first IPCC assessment

The first IPCC report paid attention to the Arctic both in relation to its role in the global climate system and in relation to potential impacts. Examples of the former include a discussion of tundra and boreal wetlands as sources of methane, the role of ice-albedo feedbacks in climate models, and a discussion of the North Atlantic mixing of ocean water and heat transport. The first IPCC assessment also mentions that polar regions may warm two to three times more than the global mean and that some models predict an ice-free Arctic with profound consequences for marine ecosystems. There were some attempts at making regional scenarios. The Arctic is not included in this discussion but there is a mention that the warming may be enhanced at higher latitudes, with eastern Siberia as an example.134

In the impact assessment presented by Working Group II, polar islands are mentioned as especially sensitive and that the warming may affect the distribution of species, for example tree species on the taiga. The boreal forest and tundra have their own sections in the document. The Arctic is not mentioned in discussions about coastal settlements, erosion damage, and changes in the physical and social environment but is included in the text on economic activities with a discussion about the possible need for changes in the design of pipelines due to thawing permafrost and new potential for navigation as the sea ice is reduced. Snow, ice and permafrost have a chapter of their own with lengthy discussions on the physical changes but also mentioning the effects on infrastructure, vegetation, and socioeconomic development, including hydropower, tourism, snow removal, and mining.135 In summary, the first IPCC assessment illustrates an emerging interest in the sensitive ecosystems of the Arctic and infrastructure as it relates to exploitation of resources.

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