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Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice hit its lowest extent ever recorded by Satellites: Scientists

The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September

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Ice Loss in Antarctic Sea, VOA
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Washington, March 23, 2017: While Arctic Sea ice reached this year a record low wintertime maximum extent, sea ice around Antarctica also hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellites at the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, scientists have said.

In February this year, the combined Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent was at its lowest point since satellites began to continuously measure sea ice in 1979, said scientists at NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado.

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Total polar sea ice covered 16.21 million square km, which is two million square km less than the average global minimum extent for 1981-2010 — the equivalent of having lost a chunk of sea ice larger than Mexico, the study said.

“It is tempting to say that the record low we are seeing this year is global warming finally catching up with Antarctica,” Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a NASA release on Wednesday.

“However, this might just be an extreme case of pushing the envelope of year-to-year variability. We’ll need to have several more years of data to be able to say there has been a significant change in the trend,” Meier added.

The ice floating on top of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas shrinks in a seasonal cycle from mid-March until mid-September.

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As the Arctic temperatures drop in the autumn and winter, the ice cover grows again until it reaches its yearly maximum extent, typically in March.

The ring of sea ice around the Antarctic continent behaves in a similar manner, with the calendar flipped –it usually reaches its maximum in September and its minimum in February.

This winter, a combination of warmer-than-average temperatures, winds unfavourable to ice expansion, and a series of storms halted sea ice growth in the Arctic, the scientists said.

This year’s maximum extent, reached on March 7 at 14.42 million square kilometres, is 97,00 square kilometres below the previous record low, which occurred in 2015, and 1.22 million square kilometres smaller than the average maximum extent for 1981-2010, according to the scientists. (IANS)

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The Consequence of Trapped The Paris Climate Agreement

A rescue operation for the trapped Paris Agreement would be near impossible.

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Paris Agreement
Can the trapped Paris Climate Agreement be rescued? Flickr

Two months ago, all 12 boys and the coach of a Thai football team were rescued after being trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for 18 days. Many termed their rescue against heavy odds a miracle.

Sadly, the six-day United Nations Special Climate Conference that concluded on September 9 was not able to rescue the trapped Paris Climate Agreement in the well-lit conference centre in southern Thailand.Many of the delegates wondered if it was about pronouncing the promises only to dodge them.

The Paris Climate Agreement has been hanging from a cliff right from the day US President Donald Trump, a year back, announced his official plan to withdraw from it. Though hundreds of American mayors and thousands of businesses — and even its allies like France — have been seeking to defy the consequences of Trump’s withdrawal, the agreement is getting dangerously close to its fatal consequence.

Paris Agreement
The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference Paris brought together leaders with the goal of creating a universal climate agreement that would keep global warming down. Flickr

The good news is that the Paris Climate Agreement has entered into force on November 4, 2016, in less than a year from its consensus adoption on December 12, 2015, in Paris. However, it is yet to be operationalised because its modalities, procedures and guidelines are yet to be agreed upon by its 180 Parties (countries that ratified the Paris Climate Agreement). Indeed, the Paris Agreement in its present form is just an agreement of intent.

These “rules”, as per the time-table agreed in Paris, have to be ready no later than 2018. The Bangkok Climate Conference was a late addition to the schedule after dismal progress was made at the annual meeting of the subsidiary bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ( UNFCCC) in Bonn in May 2018. The Bangkok Climate Conference was the last major negotiating meeting before the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP-24) in Poland in December, when finally the Paris Agreement will be in mission mode.

The exercise in Bangkok turned out to be progress in planning but a stalemate in its objective of operationalising. The Paris Climate Agreement remains trapped in a complex maze of the caves of finance for mitigation and adaptation for the developing countries, deployment of market mechanisms, periodicity of stocktaking and transparency, flexibility for developing countries in reporting.

Paris Climate Agreement
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers a speech as he attends Heads of States’ Statements ceremony of the COP21 World Climate Change Conference 2015 in Le Bourget, north of Paris, France, 30 November 2015. The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) is held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December aimed at reaching an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions and curtail climate change.

Formulating the rules on the cyclic and iterative nature by enhancing the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), earlier considered an innovation in international agreements, is now proving to be formidable.

It all boils down to the fact that world is now setting the new norms of not keeping the promises made on global cooperation. Not walking the talk and smartly gyrating the agreed goals is now the global attire of the diplomacy. And each of these new patterns are being justified, sometimes diplomatically and, many times with international arrogance.

Take, for example, financing for mitigation and adaptation for the developing countries. The “polluter to pay” norm has been the anchor in the multilateral environment agreements right from the 1992 Rio Agreement but is now being openly flouted. The promise of providing “additional” finance through the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was first proposed by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then President Barack Obama in Copenhagen in 2009, is supposed to become fully operational in 2020, i.e. developed countries would provide — starting with $10 billion per year in 2012 to reach $100 billion per year from 2020 onwards — to help developing countries pay for climate adaptation and mitigation.

What has happened to that promise? As of today, GCF has pledges of $10.4 billion whereas the actually committed is only $3.5 billion. The GCF as institution itself is in chaotic state. The GCF head, an Australian, abruptly resigned in July 2018 after just two years in the job because of “personal reasons”. The deputy head from Nicaragua did not even attend the July meeting of GCF, where no projects were approved. “GCF is melting down faster than Antarctica,” one of the delegates in Bangkok said.

Paris Climate Agreement
The good news is that the Paris Agreement has entered into force on November 4, 2016, in less than a year from its consensus adoption on December 12, Flickr

In Bangkok, the developed countries smartly proposed to count all the finances provided by the private sector, philanthropy, FDI and regular international development aid of 0.7 per cent of the GDP as part of the promised $100 billion. They also proposed dilution of the financial reporting rules, thereby flouting the agreement on “additional climate financing”.

Not walking the full talk by the star performers on climate change has also resulted in the angry reaction from civil society, and supported by countries, on such climate-hypocrisy.

An example is the Global Climate Action Summit convened from September 12 to 14, 2018, in San Francisco, under the leadership of California Governor Jerry Brown. The summit’s theme is “Take Ambition to the Next Level”. It will be a star-studded international event to showcase climate action at all levels and to inspire enhanced commitments and god-speed action from countries to realise the goals of the Paris Agreement. Indeed, California, the richest US state, has done more in policy setting and its implementation in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency than any other country in the world. Its firebrand governor can be termed as climate’s game-changer.

Paris Agreement
Developed countries urged to honour Paris Agreement. Flickr

In Bangkok, Brown was booed by civil society representatives for his soft approach towards oil producers in California by allowing them to drill for oil. “How can we expect a leader to take climate ambitions to the next level when he himself, from the back-door, takes it to a lower level,” queried one demonstrator in Bangkok.

Also Read: Climate Change Can Combat Unemployment By Creating 14 Mn Jobs

When state leaders arrive in Poland in December, they would have to muddle through the mess of the draft “rule book” mired in diminishing trust. By that time, the GHGs concentration, already higher by 42 percent as compared to 1992 levels, would have risen to the “next level”.

A rescue operation for the trapped Paris Climate Agreement would be near impossible. (IANS)