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Arctic Habitats Melting Away The Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole is already seeing the dramatic effects of global warming: the mercury is rising twice

The Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole is already seeing the dramatic effects of global warming: the mercury is rising twice as fast as elsewhere on the planet, posing a serious threat to the ecosystem.

The Arctic sea ice has never been as small as it is now. This year, it shrank to less than 1.93 million square miles - a grim record for the planet.

"And there is still a month of melting in September," says an alarmed Nalan Koc, head of the Norwegian Polar Institute's polar climate program.

In Svalbard, a Norwegian territory twice the size of Belgium which is home to the northernmost permanent population in the world, the effects of climate change can be seen with the naked eye.

For the past two years, the fjords on the west coast have been totally ice-free, even in winter.

Pretty scary, right? Actually it's a rather infuriating article. The Discovery writer makes sure to say that we can't really know whether this kind of drastic change is due to global warming. And hey, even if it is, it could be a boon to business:

By 2050, the ice cap may have entirely disappeared in summer.

The melting ice is a blessing for oil companies which see a potential treasure opening up before their very eyes.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas is thought to lie under the Arctic seabed.

The melting ice could also open new maritime routes, such as the Northwest Passage, to year-round international shipping, offering a much shorter route than the Suez and Panama canals.

Great! but then there's this pesky fact:

But the change would be a catastrophe for many Arctic species and risks disrupting the entire ecosystem.

For a less corporate-focused attempt at "balance", look for "The Eleventh Hour" near you.

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