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Brussels, 1st March 25007

EU Research highlights importance of polar regions for the global climate

The European Commission has today released a report highlighting the advances in understanding the role of polar regions in climate change and the environment that have been made thanks to the European Union's Research Framework programmes. One project, EPICA, has shown that levels of carbon dioxide are at their highest for 650,000 years, raising concerns about the intensity of global warming in the future. The DAMOCLES project has looked at the human and environmental impact of reduction of sea ice cover in the Arctic. It has produced data which will be invaluable in forecasting the effects of melting icecaps and has developed new tools for use in the very specific Arctic conditions. The report comes as the international scientific community launches International Polar Year, a huge scientific campaign with more than 200 projects, involving scientists from more than 60 countries, to focus international attention on the importance of Polar Regions to our climate. As a EU contribution to International Polar Year an International Symposium hosted by the European Commission in Brussels on 5 and 6 March, entitled "Polar environment and climate: the challenges", will bring together high level European and international scientists and discuss future perspectives and research priorities for the polar regions.

"The polar regions may seem remote to us, but environmental changes there have global impact" said European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik, who will deliver the keynote speech at the Symposium. "Since the early days of polar exploration, Europeans have been at the forefront of polar research. Our new Research Framework Programme will continue in this tradition. As we look forward to International Polar Year, and determine what we can do in the future, it is a perfect moment to take stock of our many achievements to date."

Polar changes occur in the daily living environment of more than 4 million people. The reductions in extent and mass of ice have immediate local consequences for terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Changes in snowfall and shrinkage of glaciers will influence millions of people whose daily use of water for personal consumption or for agriculture depends on snow pack and glacial sources. But more than that, scientists know that Polar Regions play an important role in controlling and regulating the climate of the entire planet. However, there are still many questions to be answered about the consequences of human activities and the challenges that Polar Regions are now facing. The International Polar Year responds precisely to this need for more and better knowledge. Projects undertaken within its scope will cover polar atmosphere, ice, land, oceans and space.

The European Union's Research Framework Programme has supported more than 60 projects looking specifically at Polar Regions over the last ten years, with finance of more than €200 million. Today's report details all the projects funded over these ten years, in areas such as climate system, environment and health, natural hazards, natural resources, and research infrastructures.

The report will be presented at an International Symposium on "Polar environment and climate: the challenges", which will be hosted by the European Commission in Brussels on 5 and 6 March. This symposium takes place at the very beginning of International Polar Year and is designed to present an opportunity for scientists involved in polar research to share ideas and evaluate work done so far, as well providing a starting point for ever more accurate work on assessment, prediction and recommendations for action.

For more information:

Link to the report:




Polar Symposium



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