3rd September, 2020

Six ways loss of Arctic ice impacts everyone

Polar ice caps are melting as global warming causes climate change. We lose Arctic sea ice at a rate of almost 13% per decade, and over the past 30 years, the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by a stunning 95%.

If emissions continue to rise unchecked, the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer by 2040. But what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. Sea ice loss has far-reaching effects around the world.

The Impact

See how sea ice is already affecting us

sea ice WW227588 Elisabeth Kruger  sea ice orange WW227585 Elisabeth Kruger

1. Temperatures

The Arctic and Antarctic are the world’s refrigerator. Since they are covered in white snow and ice that reflect heat back into space, they balance out other parts of the world that absorb heat. Less ice means less reflected heat, meaning more intense heatwaves worldwide. But it also means more extreme winters: as the polar jet stream—a high-pressure wind that circles the Arctic region—is destabilized by warmer air, it can dip south, bringing bitter cold with it.

2. Coastal communities

The global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900 and it’s getting worse. Rising seas endanger coastal cities and small island nations by exacerbating coastal flooding and storm surge, making dangerous weather events even more so. Glacial melting of the Greenland ice sheet is a major predictor of future sea level rise; if it melts entirely, global sea levels could rise 20 feet.

3. Food

Polar vortexes, increased heat waves, and unpredictability of weather caused by ice loss are already causing significant damage to crops on which global food systems depend. This instability will continue to mean higher prices for you and growing crises for the world’s most vulnerable.

4. Shipping

As ice melts, new shipping routes open up in the Arctic. These routes will be tempting time-savers, but incredibly dangerous. Imagine more shipwrecks or oil spills like the Exxon-Valdez in areas that are inaccessible to rescue or clean-up crews.

5. Wildlife

When there’s less sea ice, animals that depend on it for survival must adapt or perish. Loss of ice and melting permafrost spells trouble for polar bears, walruses, arctic foxes, snowy owls, reindeer, and many other species. As they are affected, so too are the other species that depend on them, in addition to people. Wildlife and people are coming into more frequent contact – and often conflict – as wildlife encroach on Arctic communities, looking for refuge as their sea ice habitat disappears.

6. Permafrost

Arctic ice and permafrost—ground that is permanently frozen—store large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. When it thaws, that methane is released, increasing the rate of warming. This, in turn, causes more ice and permafrost to thaw or melt, releasing more methane, causing more melting. As we lose more ice more quickly and see more rapid permafrost melt, we will start seeing the worst climate change predictions come true.

 

As the world warms, extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense, sea levels are rising, prolonged droughts are putting pressure on food crops, and many animal and plant species are being driven to extinction. It’s hard to imagine what we as individuals can do to resolve a problem of this scale and severity.

The good news: We are not alone. People, communities, cities, businesses, schools, faith groups and other organizations are taking action. We’re fighting like our lives depend on it — because they do.

In a world of more than seven billion people, each of us is a drop in the bucket. But with enough drops, we can fill any bucket.

-David Suzuki

Here are some things that you can do to help resolve the problem:

  1. Reduce your electricity uses
  2. Reuse, reduce and recycle
  3. Green your commute
  4. Drive and fly less, carpool whenever available
  5. Invest in renewables and divest from fossil fuels

It isn’t too late to start caring about climate change, to avoid or limit the worst effects of climate change, we should all play our part in preventing it. The change starts with you but it doesn’t start until you do, collective efforts from people all around the world might be the key in solving climate change.

People Standing Around a Globe Vector Images (30)

 

 

 

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