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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

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)

Next Story

UN Climate Summit to Take Place in Madrid

UN climate talks to kick off in Madrid on Monday

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The UN climate talks will be taking place in Madrid. Pixabay

BY VISHAL GULATI

As greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, diplomats and officials from nearly 200 countries, including India, will gather in the Spanish capital Madrid for two weeks from Monday for the UN climate summit to thrash out how best to tackle the climate crisis.

The 25th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) or COP25 is being held in the backdrop of climate impacts biting globally, believe climate experts.

Fires are consuming forests from the Amazon to Indonesia and from Congo to Australia. Floods have just hit Britain and Venice. Heatwaves, super-charged hurricanes and torrential downpours are now commonplace.

In the run-up to the annual summit, three stark reports on the rising carbon emissions and impacts on global temperatures have been released.

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The UN climate summit will discuss ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lifetime Stock

The reports lay bare the horrific state of climate breakdown and its impacts across the globe whilst indicating the solutions are available to make possible meeting the goals set out under the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The COP25 will take place under the Presidency of the government of Chile and will be held with logistical support from the government of Spain.

“This year, we have seen accelerating climate change impacts, including increased droughts, storms and heat waves, with dire consequences for poverty eradication, human health, migration and inequality,” UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said.

“The world’s small window of opportunity to address climate change is closing rapidly. We must urgently deploy all the tools of multilateral cooperation to make COP25 the launchpad for more climate ambition to put the world on a transformational path towards low carbon and resilience,” she said.

According to the UN Climate Change, a key objective of COP25 is to raise overall ambition also by completing several key aspects with respect to the full operationalisation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Last year at COP24 in Poland, the bulk of the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement were agreed on, with the exception of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

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The UN climate talk will discuss ways to tackle climate crisis. Wikimedia Commons

Article 6 is to provide guidelines for how international climate markets will work, as a key component of the world’s economic toolbox for addressing climate change.

The other focus areas at COP25 will include adaptation, loss and damage, transparency, finance, capacity-building, indigenous issues, oceans, forestry, gender and more.

The provision of finance and technology is crucial for developing countries to green their economies and build resilience.

“While we have seen some progress with respect to climate-related financing for developing countries, we will continue to urge developed nations to fulfil their pledge of mobilizing $100 billion annually by 2020,” Espinosa said in a statement.

What’s at stake at COP25?

At a time when the discrepancies between what governments need to do according to science, and what they are actually doing, are getting unprecedented global attention,

“Madrid is the moment when the race for governments to submit new climate plans starts,” a climate negotiator told IANS.

The Madrid talks are due in 2020, and under the Paris deal, they need to be better than previous ones.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the vulnerable states are expected to make this clear at COP25.

The heat of mobilisations on the streets is expected to be felt inside the venue and the host of the 2020 COP, Britain, is expected to outline its plan to raise global ambition.

India will look to engage in negotiations with a constructive and positive outlook and work towards protecting its long-term development interests.

India has been ambitious in its actions and has emphasised that developed countries should take lead in undertaking ambitious actions and fulfil their climate finance commitments of mobilising $100 billion per annum by 2020 and progressively and substantially scale up their financial support to inform parties for future action through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

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This UN climate summit must generate momentum and pressure on big polluters. Wikimedia Commons

India will further stress upon the need for fulfilling the pre-2020 commitments by developed countries, and that pre-2020 implementation gaps should not present an additional burden to developing countries in the post-2020 period.

The Indian delegation will be led by Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.

The COP25 is an important as countries prepare to move from pre-2020 period under Kyoto Protocol to post-2020 period under the Paris Agreement.

In 2020, nations are to submit new or updated national climate action plans, referred to as NDCs.

According to the UN Environment Programme’s 2019 Emission Gap Report published last week, unless global greenhouse gas emissions fall by 7.6 per cent each year between 2020 and 2030, the world will miss the opportunity to get on track towards the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

This means collective ambition would need to increase more than fivefold over current levels to deliver the cuts needed over the next decade to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal.

This climate summit must generate momentum and pressure on big polluters.

Climate experts told IANS that major emitters need to heed the call for action at Madrid’s closing, and leave Spain feeling on notice to deliver leading commitments in 2020.

If the EU, China and India feel the heat, that will inject some pace into global climate efforts.

Also Read- More than Half of European Women Diagnosed at a Late Stage of HIV Infection: WHO

Antonio Guterres is expected to be in Madrid to reinforce his call for countries to stop feeding their coal addiction, demand plans for carbon neutrality by 2050 and call for an end to the trillions spent supporting the fossil fuel sector.

The EU may announce its 2050 net zero plan, while 100 or more countries could commit to carbon neutrality by midcentury. (IANS)