Many discussions of climate change impacts in the Arctic focus on the natural environment. Sea ice decline, shifts in animal migratory patterns, and the increasing number of snow free days are often among them. However, human endeavors are not exempt. Some of the infrastructure used to extract the fossil fuels responsible for climate change is now at risk itself due to melting permafrost. In a recent publication in Nature Communications, Jan Hjort et al. indicate that almost four million people and 70% of current infrastructure will likely be coping with the effects of near surface permafrost melt by the middle of this century. Besides the associated natural hazards and economic impacts, this will likely impact the aesthetic of the built environment in this region as well. From an artist’s perspective, the implication of this research is that historic buildings in older villages, which have been an important part of their local cultural landscape for many decades, are at risk of being damaged or destroyed.
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Degrading permafrost puts Arctic infrastructure at risk by mid-century