Climate change is having a greater and faster impact on the Arctic than previously thought, according to a new study by the global conservation organization WWF.

The new report, called Arctic Climate Impact Science – An Update Since ACIA, represents the most wide-ranging reviews of arctic climate impact science since the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) was published in 2005.

The new study found that change was occurring in all arctic systems, impacting on the atmosphere and oceans, sea ice and ice sheets, snow and permafrost, as well as species and populations, food webs, ecosystems and human societies. Melting of arctic sea ice and the Greenland Ice Sheet was found to be severely accelerated, now even prompting the expert scientists to discuss whether both may be close to their “tipping point” (the point where, because of climate change, natural systems may experience sudden, rapid and possibly irreversible change).

“The magnitude of the physical and ecological changes in the Arctic creates an unprecedented challenge for governments, the corporate sector, community leaders and conservationists to create the conditions under which arctic natural systems have the best chance to adapt,” said Dr Martin Sommerkorn, one of the report’s authors and Senior Climate Change Adviser at WWF International’s Arctic Programme.

“The debate can no longer focus only on creating protected areas and allowing arctic ecosystems to find their balance.” “At the same time, we need to simultaneously reduce the vulnerability of social and environmental systems of the Arctic by reducing threats from human activity and building ecosystem resilience — the ability of ecosystems to remain stable when under a lot of pressure.”

WWF will launch this report at a meeting of the Arctic Council, the intergovernmental forum of arctic nations on Thursday.

“It is now in the hand of the arctic nations to act upon this evidence for climate impacts,” said Sommerkorn. “They can make a difference if they act strongly, and fast. It is not too late to throw the wheel around. It is just way too late for business as usual.”