Arctic could be free of summer sea ice by 2030

Feature story - September 18, 2009
As the Earth warms, its ice melts. Global melting is an early and obvious sign of climate change. Today, it was reported that the minimum area of summer Arctic sea-ice extent has plummeted to the third-lowest level ever in recorded history. The Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise is hosting world-class sea ice expert Dr. Peter Wadhams, on a mission to conduct research into sea-ice loss in the Arctic Ocean, off the northeast coast of Greenland.

The melting of land ice is already raising sea levels. If current warming trends continue, cities like New York, London and Bangkok will end up below sea level - displacing millions and causing massive economic damage. The US has roughly 12,400 miles of coastline and more than 19,900 miles of coastal wetlands. A recent study estimated the costs of adapting to even a one meter sea level rise in the US would amount to $156 billion (3 percent of GNP).

Documenting Melting Ice

Dr. Peter Wadhams, of the University of Cambridge, is leading a team of five independent scientists who plan to use buoys moored to pressured ice, ice cores and a number of other methods to calculate the melt rate of ridged ice, a feature that accounts for over half the volume of ice in the Arctic Ocean and which is disappearing fast as a consequence of climate change, in order to answer the question of why it is melting faster than non-ridged ice.

Sea-ice extent has been declining for the last 30 years, but the speed of that decline has accelerated in the last decade, especially in the last four years. This alarming rate is outpacing scientific predictions. For example, in 2007, the area of summer sea-ice extent reached a level that was not predicted to occur until 2080.

Time for Action is NOW

World leaders must forge an agreement that takes bold, ambitious and decisive action at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen this December.

What's needed is a 40% cut in greenhouse gases by 2020 on the part of developed countries; they also need to invest $140 billion per year to help developing countries deal with the impacts of climate change, stop deforestation and switch to a low carbon economy. To do anything less is to ignore the warnings in the Arctic and elsewhere that demonstrate that the climate is in serious peril.

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