“If you rattle one part of the system, like the Arctic, you can be sure that you’re going to see impacts elsewhere,” says scientist Piers Sellers.

Sellers has a uniquely global perspective. As a NASA astronaut, he witnessed from space the continued melting of the Arctic icecap. On the ground, Sellers untangles complex climate data with computer modeling and Earth-observing satellites.

Right now, northern polar regions are heating up twice as fast as anywhere else on Earth.

You don’t have to be in space to see the effects. You and your closest coastline face these risks:

  • Rising sea levels: Coastal communities, with 38 percent of the world’s population, could suffer flooding and possible destruction.
  • Shrinking Arctic “mirror”: Without reflective snow and ice, more heat is trapped on Earth, accelerating warming everywhere.
  • Extreme weather: Drought, heat and floods may increase as a melting Arctic shifts the northern polar jet stream.
  • Fish flight: Arctic waters are changing so rapidly that fish populations are migrating, disrupting vital fisheries.
  • Wildfires: Drier winters make blazes more prevalent.
  • Permafrost not permanent: The Arctic’s layer of underground ice is melting, potentially releasing billions of tons of greenhouse gases.

What can you do?

Taking action to reduce carbon emissions, even in your hometown, can help slow the retreat of Arctic ice. And if you live on the coast, your community can take steps to respond to rising sea levels.