Once the Arctic sea ice starts melting, it will only take 10 years to disappear completely, according to a new report from the world’s leading climate scientists. That’s a shame, but it’s not going to happen for decades, right?
It depends whether you’re optimistic or not, because there’s a 50% chance that it will start happening in the very imminent future – meaning that there is a 50% chance that by as early as 2025, all the Arctic sea ice will be gone. Completely.
Why would it take the ice so little time to melt? The problem is that once the ice starts melting, a greater area of the Arctic is covered in water rather than ice. Whereas ice reflects most of the sun’s energy, water absorbs a large amount of it, leading to further warming. It quickly turns into a runaway cycle, and after just a decade of melting it’s all gone.
But why does it really matter for humanity? Arctic ice melt affects not just polar bears, but also humans. If the whole of the Arctic was to melt, sea levels would rise by as much as 59cm (2 feet), causing serious flooding in coastal cities such as New York and London. As for New Orleans… they wouldn’t stand a chance.
Other timescales for climate change effects given in the report include 50 years until the death of the Amazon rainforest, and the same amount of time until the death of the Boreal forest across Canada, Alaska and Russia. Remember that that’s 50 years from when the tipping point is reached, not 50 years from now. But it may not be very far in the future from now. (Click here for an excellent interactive map detailing the widespread impacts of climate change)
I’m a firm believer in protecting our environment before it gets too late. I think humans should reduce CO2 emissions at all costs, but many people disagree. What do you think? Is it all completely natural, or is it wrong for developed countries to take action while China builds a new coal-fired power station every week? Post your comments below.
Filed under: Exploration, Nature, Science, Technology | Tagged: Amazon, Amazon rainforest, Antarctica, Arctic, Environment, flooding, green, ice, melt, melting, New Orleans, penguins, polar bears, sea ice |