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Large parts of the far north of our planet, the Arctic, were permanently covered with ice for thousands of years, but this is now changing. By burning fossil fuels like coal and oil, we rapidly return carbon, stored for millions of years in the Earth’s crust, back into the atmosphere. This increases the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere and causes Earth’s surface temperature to rise. Warmer temperatures and melting sea ice and glaciers are changing the Arctic environment. In a few decades, the North Pole could be ice-free for the first time in human history. A warming Arctic will have global consequences, through higher sea levels, changes in climate and precipitation patterns, and loss of fish, birds, and marine mammals. In this article, we discuss how large changes in the Arctic environment may affect the entire planet.
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