Arctic Warming Feared Unstoppable

This article was published by Newsletter, issue #12, .

While U.S. politicians and industry apologists claim that global warming is a myth, scientists are reporting that the northern hemisphere of the earth, especially the Arctic, is undergoing a melting of sea ice that has now passed the point of no return. Satellite imagery of the Arctic reveals that the sea ice fell in August 2005 to its lowest monthly level ever recorded, dropping over 18% below its long-term average. The extent of the reduction is believed to be greater than any other monthly loss during the past hundreds and perhaps thousands of years — indicating that the rate of melting is accelerating.

According to scientists studying the matter, the climatic warming of the region — and possibly the rest of the world — has apparently exceeded any level from which the region could recover. This is because the ice being lost tends to reflect much of the sun's rays, which are now heating up, for the first time, water that had previously been protected. Consequently, the warmer water furthers the melting of the ice above it, resulting in an inexorable cycle, with no quick end.

In favor of the environmental view, the process of Arctic melting is remarkably simple. Known as the "albedo effect", sea ice can reflect up to 80 percent of the sunlight that strikes it. But when that ice melts away, it exposes the seawater, which is darker and far more absorbent of the UV rays. The area involved is phenomenally large, covering an estimated 7 million square kilometers — approximately the size of Australia. If current trends continue, then there will be no summertime ice in the Arctic, by the year 2070, if not earlier.

Critics of these ecological warnings, may argue that the melting process has a natural limit: The warmer water will result in greater cloud cover, which reflects away sunlight before it even reaches the planet's surface, thus eventually cooling the planet back down and restoring the polar ice. Yet what they fail to appreciate is how few species could survive another ice age — especially the first one exacerbated by mankind's carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. The global warning naysayers might be imagining or hoping that they will be able to merely relocate their suburbs and SUVs to the optimal climes, regardless of their location on the globe. But it's obviously not that simple. If we ever reach the point where the only Arctic ice left is to be found in our cocktail glasses, then we will have every reason to cry into our drinks, as the loss of habitat and species between then and now will have been apocalyptic.

Copyright © 2005 Michael J. Ross. All rights reserved.
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