The Arctic ice cap is melting — and with it goes our future

Satellite data reveal how the new record low Arctic sea ice extent, from Sept. 16, 2012, compares to the average minimum extent over the past 30 years (in yellow). NASA/Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio

In the Irish Times, John Gibbons writes: It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of what is currently unfolding in the Arctic region

THE TRUTH, as Winston Churchill put it, is incontrovertible. “Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Scrape away the layers of denial, obfuscation and spin that cloud climate change and one unvarnished truth emerges: the Arctic ice cap is dying – and, with it, humanity’s best hopes for a prosperous, predictable future.

In the most dramatic reconfiguration of the map of the world since the end of the last Ice Age, the Arctic ice cap is now committed to accelerated collapse.

In 2007, the intergovernmental panel on climate change warned that, unless emissions were drastically curbed globally, the Arctic ocean could be clear of summer sea ice towards the end of this century.

They were hopelessly optimistic. On September 16th last, Arctic sea ice hit its lowest level ever recorded, at 3.41 million sq km, barely half the 1979-2000 average. The area of sea ice lost is 41 times larger than the island of Ireland. While the drop in sea ice extent is alarming, the 72 per cent decline in its volume is worse. Not only is ice cover shrinking, the surviving ice is thinning precipitously.

Prof Peter Wadhams of the Polar Ocean Physics Group described the September 2012 figures as a “global disaster”. He now projects the destruction of Arctic summer sea ice by 2015-16 – more than half a century ahead of the IPCC’s projections. “The final collapse towards that state is now happening and will probably be complete by those dates,” he added.

It is difficult to overstate the magnitude of what is now unfolding in the Arctic region. The Arctic ice cap used to cover 2 per cent of the Earth’s surface, and the ice albedo effect meant vast amounts of solar energy were bounced back into space from the bright white ice mass.

Losing this ice, and replacing it with dark open ocean, creates a dramatic tipping point in planetary energy balance. [Continue reading…]

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2 thoughts on “The Arctic ice cap is melting — and with it goes our future

  1. Norman

    The sad part here, is that the worlds shipping industry will use the arctic and dump their garbage, ballast with those foreign hitchhikers aboard, perhaps even sink, whereby the fuel will pollute the pristine waters. Oh but what the hell, the world was made so the present human species could destroy it in record time.

  2. pabelmont

    War in Context warns of global warming? War on GW? well, thanks! We should ALL put this reality-issue as #1.

    Political-issue #1 is money in politics. Until Americans (and others) can substantially get money out of politics, our nation(s) will be run to serve the VERY SHORT TERM interests of wealthy corporations (such as BIG-OIL, BIG-COAL, which promote use of fossil fuels and thus promote global warming).

    I suggest a constitutional amendment to limit political spending so that human beings alone may spend for political action, and they should be limited to an annual cumulative maximum (say $1000, $5000) of political spending. Corporations (and their very wealthy CEOs and owners) will be removed from the political picture, because they (the corporations) will not be allowed to spend for lobbying and campaigning and citizens-United-spending, and they 9CEOs and owners) will have no greater rights to spend than anyone else.

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