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Human Actions Responsible for Arctic Sea Ice Disappearance, says Study

Many animal species in the Arctic heavily depend on sea ice, and it's likely they will struggle to survive with an ice-free Arctic during the summer

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FILE - An iceberg is seen melting off the coast of Ammasalik, Greenland, July 19, 2007. VOA
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November 4, 2016: Ice has been disappearing in the Arctic Ocean since at least the 1960. Each year, more and more sea ice vanishes in the Arctic north, and one study says every one of us is personally responsible.

Each passenger taking a flight from New York to Europe, or driving 4,000 kilometers in a gasoline-powered car, emits enough greenhouse gas to melt three square meters of ice on the Arctic Ocean, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

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The study calculates that for every metric ton of carbon dioxide put in the air, there are three square meters less of sea ice in the month of September when the Arctic region is least frozen. Using observations, statistics and 30 different computer models, the study’s authors show heat-trapping gases cause warming and the melting of sea ice in a way that can be translated into a simple mathematical formula.

FILE - A young polar bear walks on ice over deep waters of the Arctic Ocean. (Credit: Shawn Harper) VOA
FILE – A young polar bear walks on ice over deep waters of the Arctic Ocean. (Credit: Shawn Harper) VOA

There’s “a very clear linear relationship” between carbon dioxide emissions and sea ice retreat in September, especially at the southern boundary edges, said study lead author Dirk Notz, a climate scientist at Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany.

“It’s very simple. Those emissions from our tailpipes and our coal-fired power plants are all going into the atmosphere,” said study co-author Julienne Stroeve, a climate scientist at both the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, and University College, London. “It just increases the warming at the surface. So the ice is going to respond to that. The only way it can do that is to move further north.”

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Stroeve and Notz calculated that the average American each year is responsible for carbon emissions that lead to melting around 50 square meters of September sea ice — about the size of small one-bedroom apartment in a U.S. city.

Many animal species in the Arctic heavily depend on sea ice, and it’s likely they will struggle to survive with an ice-free Arctic during the summer, Notz said. For example, polar bears, who spend most of their lives on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean, could be at risk.

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As for the future of Arctic sea ice, the study said the international target of 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, as spelled out in the Paris Agreement on climate change that goes into effect Friday, will not be sufficient to allow Arctic summer sea ice to survive. At current carbon emission levels, the ocean around the North Pole would likely be ice-free in Septembers in about 30 years. (VOA)

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Brazil Cut Its Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels Lower Than 2020 Emission Goals

The 2020 emission goals were set out in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord to combat climate change. Under the more ambitious Paris Agreement in 2015 on climate change, Brazil has set goals for further steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for 2025 and 2030.

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Brazil Surpasses 2020 Target to Cut Deforestation Emissions. Flickr Commons

Brazil cut its greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation in 2017 to levels below its internationally agreed 2020 climate change targets, the country’s Environment Ministry said Thursday.

Brazil reduced its emission from deforestation in the Amazon rainforest by 610 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), compared to its 2020 target of 564 million tons. In the Cerrado savanna, emissions were reduced 170 million tons of carbon dioxide versus a target of 104 million tons.

The Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest, and the Cerrado, South America’s biggest savanna, soak up vast amounts of carbon dioxide, and their preservation is seen as vital to the fight against climate change.

Brazil reduced its emission from deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Pixabay
Brazil reduced its emission from deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Pixabay

But destruction of the forest releases large quantities of CO2, one of the main greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming. Large-scale Amazon deforestation has made Brazil one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters, because of fires and the spread of agriculture and cattle ranching.

The 2020 emission goals were set out in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord to combat climate change. Under the more ambitious Paris Agreement in 2015 on climate change, Brazil has set goals for further steep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for 2025 and 2030.

Also Read: Nature in Danger: Deforestation Climbs High

“The policy message is that we can and should remain in the Paris Agreement (because) it is possible to effectively implement the commitments that have been made,” said Thiago Mendes, secretary of climate change in the Environment Ministry. (VOA)