Think Learn & Perform (TLP)

The Only Dedicated Platform for UPSC Mains Answer Writing

Day 73 – Q 3.What are the man made factors leading to the melting of ice in the Arctic region? Do you think exploration of the Arctic region for resources is environmentally sustainable in the long run? Comment.

3. What are the man made factors leading to the melting of ice in the Arctic region? Do you think exploration of the Arctic region for resources is environmentally sustainable in the long run? Comment. 

आर्कटिक क्षेत्र में बर्फ के पिघलने के कारण मानव निर्मित कारक कौन से हैं? क्या आपको लगता है कि संसाधनों के लिए आर्कटिक क्षेत्र की खोज लंबे समय में पर्यावरण के अनुकूल है? टिप्पणी करें।


According to a recent study, the steady melt of glacial ice around the world is largely due to man-made factors, such as greenhouse-gas emissions and aerosols where humans have caused roughly a quarter of the globe’s glacial loss between 1851 and 2010, and about 69 percent of glacial melting between 1991 and 2010. Consequently, the arctic region has been the most affected region with regard to melting of ice.


  • Arctic sea ice has been rapidly declining since satellites first started tracking it in 1979, and according to NASA, roughly 13.3 percent of the ice disappears every decade. Further, air currents that are a part of Earth’s natural variability have played a significant role in melting the ice, which helps explain why the earlier models have underestimated the melting.
  • In this regard, the man made factors for melting of ice in the arctic region can be seen from below :
  • Burning of fossil fuels – The burning of fossil fuels has resulted in the buildup of greenhouse gases in the environment thus influencing the warming trend because they trap heat in the atmosphere. Research shows that glaciers/ice cover are capable of absorbing about 20% of heat from the sun, reflecting back the remaining 80%. The increase in temperatures is causing more and more glaciers and ice cover to melt, consequently, this ends up exposing the earth underneath.
  • Oil and gas drilling – The oil and gas extraction process also emit Methane, which is the main constituent in natural gas. Plus, the gas is more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide, locking in heat more efficiently and escalating global warming. In recent times, these industries have increased in arctic region.
  • Deforestation – Trees play a very important function in balancing the ecosystem and the overall cooling of the planer. Perhaps, that is why they are called the planet’s “natural fans”. So, cutting down trees to create more space for human activities is actually proving detrimental to the environmental balance in the region.
  • Ice breaking ships – During the months of summer, icebreaking ships head to the north into the Arctic Ocean, breaking through the ice at sea, the ships end up leaving trails of open waters. The Arctic sea ice is able to reflect most of the heat thus aiding in keeping the Arctic and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere cool.
  • A recent study found that if the world warms 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial times—the lofty goals laid out in the Paris climate agreement— there is still a 39 percent chance that the Arctic summer sea ice will disappear. Further, very little industrial development has taken place in the Arctic region and there are fears about the impact on the environment if – as expected – human use accelerates fast. 
  • As the Arctic warms, increased political interest in the region is occurring, driven by the belief that it will become accessible to greater commercial activity. Global warming is opening up the Arctic Ocean to transit by ships, which can cut east-west voyage times by one-third. Warmer weather allows oil and mining companies to tap into previously inaccessible new reserves.
  • The melting of sea ice is progressively opening opportunities to navigate on routes through Arctic waters. This could considerably shorten trips from Europe to Pacific, save energy, reduce emissions, promote trade and diminish pressure in the main trans-continental navigation channels. But concerns regarding this such as drift ice, lack of infrastructure and environmental risks, nevertheless still remain.
  • The impact of oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region include threats like  noise pollution, water dispersal in the drilling phase and the actual drilling process which can release oil and chemicals into the water. Further, the transport of oil and gas in the Arctic region by tanker and pipeline poses severe problems of environment impacts.
  • Long-lasting consequences often persist through industrial waste, tailings, and environmental contaminants. At sea, oil spills are the largest potential environmental threat. They are difficult to control and can spread over 100s – 1000s unnoticeably harming the ecosystems. 
  • Arctic ecosystems are simple in structure, but often have long food chains which link both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Here, A number of species can be affected by the rise in temperature and its results. This ranges from fish stock in the Arctic Ocean which is sensitive to the ocean temperature, even small can result in major shifts in the geographical locations and productivity in the stock.
  • Another factor that can magnify the problem is the lack of emergency response capability for mitigating pollution and saving lives in the event of an accident. Hence, the opening up of new opportunities becomes a huge challenge to the arctic communities in both positive and negative ways.


The arctic environment is largely unspoiled but human actions including global warming are having a rapid impact. There are fears that diminishing arctic sea ice, which is one of the Earth’s ways of deflecting heat from the sun, is shrinking. Only through approaching the tasks collaboratively will it be possible to find lasting solutions, so international cooperation becomes essential in having a sustainable arctic environment in the future.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email