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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

FILE - An iceberg is seen melting off the coast of Ammasalik, Greenland, July 19, 2007. VOA

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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Look at Consumption When Assigning Blame for Global Warming, Study Says

global warming
The sun is seen through evening air pollution in Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 8, 2018. VOA

Wealthy cities are responsible for a huge share of greenhouse-gas emissions when calculations include goods they consume from developing countries, researchers said on Tuesday, challenging traditional estimates that put blame on manufacturing nations.

Looking at emissions based on consumption, affluent cities, mostly in North America and Europe, emit 60 percent more greenhouse gases than they do use traditional calculations, researchers said at a United Nations-backed climate summit.

Calculating emissions of greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming, traditionally looks at where goods such as cellular phones or plastic cups are produced, they said.

global warming
Cities account for an estimated 75 percent of carbon emissions, according to U.N. figures used at the summit. Pixabay

ALSO READ: Simpler route to global warming management being missed

But consumption-based emissions presents a fuller picture by attributing emissions to the consumers rather than the manufacturers, said Mark Watts, head of C40, an alliance of more than 90 global cities.

The newer method of calculation puts the responsibility on richer consumers and “increases the scope of things that policymakers in cities can address to reduce emissions,” Watts said.

Big cities, big problem

The estimate by C40 comes amid concern that national governments are not on track to meet the pledges they made in 2015 in Paris to reduce greenhouse gases and curb climate change.

ALSO READ: A rise in 2 degrees Celsius in global warming could cause droughts

Traditional calculations put manufacturing countries such as China and India amid the lead emitters of greenhouse gases.

Using consumption-based calculations, emissions in 15 affluent cities were three times more than they were with traditional figuring, the researchers said.

global warming
Forbidden City and other buildings are seen amid smog ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year in Beijing, Feb. 13, 2018. VOA

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Using consumption-based emissions is “revolutionary” although still “on the periphery,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chairwoman on the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“But … these are ideas whose time is probably almost imminent,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the Edmonton summit.

The researchers used trade and household data from 79 cities that are members of C40.

Some 750 climate scientists and city planners from 80 countries are gathered in the western Canadian city to help chart a global roadmap for cities to battle climate change. (VOA)