Towards a climate-resilient Baltic Sea

Polaris is an impressive vessel. Built in 2016, she is the most recent addition to the sizeable fleet of ice breakers based a mere ten-minute walk away from the HELCOM Secretariat in Helsinki. But does the fact that Finland maintains a fleet of heavy-duty ships to break the sea ice in her waters mean that climate change has not reached the Baltic Sea? Unfortunately not. In fact, this region is warming faster than Earth as a whole, and the sea ice cover has decreased dramatically since the middle of the 20th century. And there is more to come. Over the next 100 years, precipitation is expected to increase, but the snow season will likely become shorter and the sea ice cover could decline even further. Other effects of climate change in the Baltic Sea could include higher air and water temperatures, lower salinity, decreased oxygen levels and shifts in habitats and species distribution.

In other words, climate change is adding more pressure to a fragile ecosystem already affected by a wide variety of anthropogenic impacts, such as eutrophication, pollution, overfishing and habitat loss. But HELCOM is working to tackle this issue. A priority of the current Finnish presidency of HELCOM, climate change has long been on the agenda of our organization. Since 2007, HELCOM Ministerial Meetings have stressed that climate change will impact on the region's marine environment and should therefore be reflected in HELCOM policies.


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