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As we all gather together to celebrate the magical Christmas season, Ellina Webb looks at the affects climate change will likely have on Santa, Rudolph and the gang over the next 100 years.

This year on the Hub we have written an enormous amount of articles about climate change and with news from #COP24 that we have only 12 years to mitigate the dangerous effects and 2 years to start reaching set targets, there will be plenty more articles to come.

But at this time of the year where fun and festive cheer shines through, I thought it would be interesting to see how climate change will affect Father Christmas (it’s quite possibly the only way to inject fun into such a serious topic). From his home to his annual round the world trip, Santa and the gang might have a lot to face in the years to come because the outcome really isn’t that jolly!

Melting ice, higher sea levels and fewer cities to navigate

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about how the rise in global temperature will accelerate the melting ice in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic (and the North Pole) and, along with increased rainfall over land, will raise sea levels and cause flooding; putting millions of people at risk.

For Santa, whose official home is the North Pole, this means that over the next 80 years the surface area of North Pole ice mass will decrease. By 2050 it is estimated that the North Pole could be facing ice-free summers and by 2100 the ice mass may no longer exist.

FYI, things aren’t looking good for Lapland either!

In case you didn’t know, the North Pole isn’t actually located on a permanent continental landmass, it is located in the Arctic Ocean which is currently permanently covered by shifting sea ice (and Santa’s home apparently). This means that by 2050 Santa’s habitat and the habitat of a high number of endanger animals like Polar Bears, the Arctic Fox and ringed seals will be vanishing.

Moving away from Santa briefly, in November my colleague Russell Jones explored the macro effects that the melting sea ice will have on low lying parts of the globe. Cities like Venice, Amsterdam, New York and Miami will become submerged and could possibly disappear completely if sea levels rise to 216 feet. This world map by National Geographic highlights the new coastlines of our continents if all the ice melts and is a major insight into the potential future of our planet if we continue to burn fossil fuels.

To make issues worse, expected flooding is likely to hit areas with chemical sites, such as in the United States where 2,500 chemical sites lie in flood water paths. Other major infrastructures at risk of this flooding include major airports such as Osaka International Airport in Japan which was battered by a Typhoon in September.

As we move away from fossil fuels Santa will have fewer chimneys to go down

In order to combat rising temperatures caused by climate change, one of the major targets set out by governments forces a reduction in carbon emissions. In order to reduce these emissions a move away from fossil fuels and towards electrifying the economy with renewables such as wind, solar and heat pump technology is the only way forward.

What this does mean is that by moving away from burning fuels like gas and coal, fewer chimneys will be required (something we are seeing less and less of in new houses). Of course technology has (thankfully) advanced far enough for our homes not to require heating exclusively by fireplaces – as shown in our History of Home Heating infographic, but for Santa the positives steps forward in renewable heating technology will cause a problem for his traditional chimney route.

Having said that, I’m sure the shift from chimney to doorway is a sacrifice St Nick is willing to make. After all, with the inflated levels of pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, along with Santa’s own inflating waist line, renewables are the best solution to this serious problem and the end of the traditional chimney is nigh.

The strain on reindeer resources

A few weeks ago BBC News reported on the population of wild reindeer in the Arctic. The news was regarding the fall in reindeer numbers by more than half in the last 2 decades from 5 million to around 2.1 million.

This reduction was caused by changing weather patterns and increased drought due to climate changes making the arctic less hospitable for reindeer. Vegetation sources were also compromised due to climate conditions and an increase in insect numbers were forcing them to hide.

With Reindeer being one of the most important animals of the season, I’m surprised this news hasn’t made a bigger impact. As I’ve written about previously on the Hub, by 2050 a third of all animal and plant species on Earth could be extinct and while reindeer are common in other parts of the world such as Canada, the arctic reindeer is an animal that could easily slip away before we know it; and who would pull the sleigh then?

Final thoughts

When it comes to climate change, no one and nowhere is safe from the effects – even Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas. The story of Father Christmas (in its numerous variations) has been around since the 4th century in the form of Saint Nicholas of Myra, who was famous for his generous gifts to the poor. But while the story has commercialised in recent times, I do wonder how the story might look in centuries to come.

Will Santa move to Florida? Will this sleigh be powered by a Tesla battery instead of flying reindeer? Will his workshop be heated by an air source heat pump?

Whatever the future holds, I hope you have a lovely Christmas and that even if you were naughty this year, Santa holds off on the coal!

Ellina Webb is a Senior Marketing Executive at Mitsubishi Electric