NOTE: Expecting FishOutofWater to serve up one of his usual spectacular Thurs. diaries on this week's report on the rapid decrease of Arctic ice levels, but wanted to give a quick heads up on yesterday's Greenpeace meeting in NYC, which brought together climate scientists and activists to declare the impact of the decline in arctic sea level a planetary emergency.
(Thursday, September 20, 2012. Combined Sources.)
At a Greenpeace International meeting yesterday, which engaged climate scientists in discussions on actions to address the unprecedented loss of Arctic ice cover due to rising levels of GHGs, NASA scientist James Hansen said runaway climate change has forced us into a "planetary emergency."
"There's a huge gap between what is understood by the scientific community and what is known by the public," NASA scientist James Hansen said, adding that he believed, "unfortunately, that gap is not being closed."The meeting coincided with the release yesterday of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) findings which revealed that this month's Arctic ice cover is now 50% of what it was in 1979.
According to the panel, humans are "really running out of time" to prevent atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from reaching levels that would precipitate runaway climate change. Hansen warned that even maintaining current concentrations of approximately 390 parts per million for several centuries "guarantees disaster."
"I am shit scared," said Kumi Naidoo, head of Greenpeace International. "What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic."
(For more on yesterday's meeting, see Arctic Sea Ice Levels Hit Record Low, Scientists Say We're 'Running Out Of Time')
Carolyn Cannon, whose opposition to Arctic oil exploration earned her the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize, attended yesterday's New York meeting from Point Hope, Alaska, a small Inupiat village on the state's northern slope.
While environmental policy wonks, journalists, and scientists hash out the finer points of computer glacier modeling, carbon pricing programs, and renewable energy subsidies, Cannon is heading home to a more immediate issue: What to do with a freshly hunted whale now that the old ice cellar has melted away?Greenpeace International today released Arctic melting: the science behind the ice, an interview with NSIDC scientist Dr Julienne Stroeve and Nick Toberg, an ice scientist at Cambridge University, both of whom are aboard Greenpeace's Arctic Sunrise ship.
"It takes like fifty refrigerators to keep a whale!" she laments. "Our people rely on that ocean. And we've seen some dramatic changes." How Many Refrigerators Does It Take to Store a Whale?
Both discuss the implications of the unprecedented Arctic melt as it jettisons us into "uncharted territory," in what Kumi Naidoo has described as "the defining environmental battle of our era."
Why is this year so different, has it been particularly warm, like in 2007 when the previous record was set?Yesterday's event in New York was one of many side events scheduled to coincide with the UN 67th General Assembly, which began September 18 and runs through September 2013.
Julienne: This summer the weather was not particularly warm or conducive to ice loss, yet 2012 shattered the 2007 minimum. This tells me that the ice was likely very thin and vulnerable to melting out even under more normal weather conditions. As the Arctic loses more of its store of old, thick ice, it is being replaced with thinner first year ice, which is more prone to melting out each summer. While natural climate variability makes it difficult to predict if a new record low will be set again next summer, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Arctic is in a new climate state with more seasonal ice loss each summer.
What is the long-term picture?
Nick: If the remaining 4 million sq. km of sea ice disappear in summer, that would equate to adding 20 years worth of CO2 to the atmosphere (at today’s levels of CO2 emissions). In the 1970s, we had 8 million sq. km of summer sea ice, so it has halved in the last 30 years.
Julienne: If we keep warming the atmosphere, the Arctic could be ice free in the summer by 2030. While natural climate variability could increase ice levels temporarily for a few years, it is on a downward long-term trend. This year is significant – we’re on the extreme end of current climate models. Our observation is that sea ice decline is happening much faster than most of the new IPCC models.
How do you think the world will respond?
Nick: It’s disturbing that we have changed the face of the planet in a way we can visually see. But people won’t really change until it affects them on a day to day level.
Julienne: I hope that this year’s sea ice loss will have an impact on the US government and change thinking.
Among the many highly significant environmental issues on the agenda are the reframing of the Millennium Development Goals (scheduled to expire in 2015 - see also Students Can Save the World: Annual Conference Focuses on Sustainable Development) into Sustainable Development Goals; sustainable development and the outcomes of Rio+20; and climate change and food security.
The Greenpeace Meeting is also part of its Save the Arctic Campaign, which launched to much fanfare in conjunction with Rio+20 and proposed gathering over 1 million signatures to proclaim the Arctic region a refuge from drilling, over-fishing and development. (See Arctic Scroll Project.)