Ice-Blog: Santa in distress in a melting Arctic


As I was floating around our local swimming pool to the sound of “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” last night, the thought of reindeer in water took my thoughts up north.

Poor old Santa must be having a worrying time. Snow and sleighs are the basis of his business. If anybody has to be concerned about what climate change is doing to the Arctic, it has to be Santa. His snowy wonderland is melting twice or even three times as fast as the rest of the planet. Reindeer are threatened by climate change, a new report confirms.

Maybe he is already thinking about some alternative transport. Marine animals to get across an increasingly watery north? Walruses? Whales? Dolphins? But he’d have problems putting them out the back to graze while he distributes the presents and sips his sherry. And in the long-term their food sources could be increasingly problematic with ocean acidification threatening so many species. A hi-tech climate-neutral alternative like the solar plane? Not much good at night. And not nearly as much fun as reindeer.

Not too stable for elves or reindeer! (Irene Quaile)
Not too stable for elves or reindeer! (Irene Quaile)

Then come the territorial disputes, with Canada and Russia arguing over who owns the North Pole. Santa would not want to be caught in the crossfire. And landing on rooftops is becoming increasingly hazardous. Does it count as hooliganism?

His Russian partner “Father Frost” (aka Grandfather Frost or Jack) must be getting a bit worried as well. He’s said to be building a giant freezer to keep Siberia cool – powered presumably with oil and gas from the Arctic.

I’m not the only one to be concerned. Greenpeace have come up with a “Save Santa’s Home” campaign, and a whole set of electronic Christmas cards drawing attention to the plight of our jovial white-bearded gift-bringer. And if you haven’t seen Santa’s Message on video, have a look. And remember we British have a tongue-in-cheek kind of sense of humour. CNN missed that, I think, when they broadcast their own story about the video (although it is not without a sliver of its own biting wit). Reporter Jeanne Moos reminds Santa that “An organisation of climate change sceptics” is talking about “recovering Arctic ice”. The “other side” does (in the interests of unbiased journalism no doubt ;-)? get quoted in the report. Moos talks about ”those who believe in global warming” as if the majority who accept the findings of something like 99% of scientists, the UN, the IPCC… belonged to a weird sect.

Santa, I’m with you and all those who are interested in protecting the Arctic from climate change and pollution. Rudolph, Dancer, Prancer and the rest of you guys – keep up the good work. You make millions of kids (and a lot of grown ups) happy every Christmas. Here’s hoping the world will take some steps in 2014 that will preserve your frozen north home for generations to come.

Merry Christmas everybody! The iceblogger will be back in January 2014. Keep your eye out for the odd tweet @iceblogger


Irene Quaile

Scots-born journalist Irene Quaile has been specialising on the Arctic since 2007, when she made her first visit to Svalbard as part of an international media project for the International Polar Year and found herself “hooked” on the icy north. As environment and climate change correspondent for Germany’s international broadcaster until November 2019, she has travelled to the Arctic regions of Scandinavia, Alaska and Greenland, making radio and online features on climate change and its impact on ecosystems and people, and on the inter-links between the Arctic and the global climate. Irene has received several international awards, including environment gold awards from the New York International Radio Festivals and the United Nations. During a trip to the Alaskan Arctic in 2008, she created The Ice Blog. Read Irene Quaile's articles

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