In Greenland, the changes in the climate over the years are evident: icebergs are getting smaller, the winters are shorter. But not everyone is convinced that man is to blame. The Arctic ice pack may have reached its smallest ever size in 2007, but sceptics point out that since then it has been rising slightly.
Professor Wibjorn Karlen, at Uppsala University, said: “The ice in the Arctic has been melting for some time, quite a bit, about 10% or something like that. But now it is increasing again. And the reason for these changes is probably the circulation in the Pacific.”
Karlen claims that carbon dioxide is not a pollution and does not affect the climate in any way. But many more scientists go along with the more widely accepted view of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Henning Rodhe, a professor at Stockholm University, and a member of the UN panel, said: “If the Arctic sea ice disappears more or less completely, at least annually in the warm season of the year, then it would mean a lot of changes for the ecology, the wildlife and for the human population in the Arctic.”
There is similar concern in Russia, especially the thawing of what is known as the permafrost. This is the frozen layer of soil underneath the land’s surface, stretching from Murmansk near Finland to a region near Alaska.
Unlike active soil, permafrost does not decompose carbon, but traps it in the frozen soil. And when all that eventually thaws, many experts believe dangerous greenhouse gases escape.
Fyodr Romanenko, a geographer at Moscow State University, said: “This organic material deposited here contains a certain amount of methane, which will go into the atmosphere when it thaws.”
But elsewhere, in Moscow, other experts dismiss these theories as pure fantasy. Permafrost, they say, is not linked to any climate change threat.
Maria Leibman, the Chief Scientist at the Earth Criosphere Institute, said: “(Permafrost) is something geological, which develops in geological time, thousands, hundreds of thousands of years. This small portion of our activity over the past few decades of human impact can not affect it.”
One thing is certain: there is no chance of reaching a scientific consensus on the issue.