Climate Change

The Arctic Transformed

the Arctic 2015.0312

Climate Change

Cold War in the Arctic, Climate Change (12 March 2015)

Historical Map of the Arctic & the Far North

The Cold War came to a swift end in the late 1980s with the collapse of the Soviet bloc. However, by now the Arctic itself seemed to be coming under increasing threat. Since 1979, global temperatures had been slowly rising and the average extent of Arctic sea ice receding. By 2015, the Northeast and Northwest Passages which had eluded navigators for centuries were now frequently open in summer and mineral reserves which had once been under ice were now accessible, leading to mounting territorial disputes between the five Arctic littoral nations.

Main Events

Arctic sea ice decline

From 1979 to 2014, the area covered by Arctic sea ice in September declined from eight million to five million square kilometers over the course of just 35 years. Most scientists attribute the loss to climate change, also called global warming, largely caused by the release of greenhouses gases, such as fossil fuels, into the atmosphere as a result of human activities.

Greenland Treaty activated

Greenland formally withdrew from the European Communities following the activation of the 1984 Greenland Treaty and in the wake of the 1982 Greenlandic referendum against EC membership. The decision to withdraw was made after Greenland had achieved self-rule, in order to protect its fisheries and limit external influence.

Fall of the Berlin Wall

After Hungary and Czechoslovakia opened their borders to Austria, allowing tens of thousands of East Germans to escape to the West, the government of East Germany partially opened its border with West Germany. In the confusion over the new regulations, masses of East Germans gathered at the Berlin Wall, overwhelming the guards and demanding to cross to the West. At 10:45 pm on 9 November, the guards relented. The Wall was swamped by celebrating East and West Germans, then torn down over the ensuing days.

German reunification

The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany (until this point often called West Germany), forming a reunited Germany. The capital of the Federal Republic was moved from Bonn to Berlin, although its government and membership in international organizations remained unchanged. The historical East German states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia were re-established as German states.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union

On the morning of 25 December 1991, in a nationally televised speech, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, declaring the office extinct and ceding all its powers to Russian president Boris Yeltsin. At 7:32 pm that night, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time in Moscow and the Russian tricolor raised in its place, symbolically marking the end to the Soviet Union and the independence of the eleven remaining Soviet republics.

Territory of Nunavut

Following a 1982 plebiscite and a 1992 land claims agreement, the Canadian Parliament passed the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act and the Nunavut Act on 9 July 1993, to better represent the largely Inuit population of the eastern Northwest Territories. In accordance with the act, the new territory of Nunavut was formed from the eastern portion of Northwest Territories on 1 April 1999.

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