Dramatic vanishing of polar sea ice and ice sheets

Polar sea ice and ice sheets are continuing to melt rapidly according to many new studies. The end-of-winter Arctic sea ice extent in March 2023 was the fifth lowest in the satellite record1, while the area of Antarctic sea ice fell to a record low.2

“Antarctica might seem remote but changes around there can affect the global climate and the melting ice sheets affect coastal communities around the world. Everyone should be concerned about what’s happening in Antarctica,” say the scientists behind the study.

“The climate crisis has pushed the planet’s stores of ice to a widespread collapse that was unthinkable just a decade ago, with Arctic sea ice certain to vanish in summers and ruinous sea level rise from melting glaciers now already in motion. I have never seen such an extreme, ice-free situation here before,” says Professor Karsten Gohl, from the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany, who first visited the Antarctic region in 1994 in one study.3

Stronger El Niño events due to global heating may accelerate irreversible melting of the Antarctic ice sheet and ice shelves, as well as the rise in sea levels, according to research from Australia’s premier government science agency. The examination of 31 climate models found stronger El Niños may accelerate the heating of deeper ocean waters. The dramatic vanishing of polar ice sheets will cause catastrophic sea level rise that will threaten cities.4
On behalf of AirClim, Climate Analytics has summarised the conclusions of the IPCC’s sixth assessment cycle concerning the effects of a global 1.5°C temperature rise in the Arctic and concludes that such a temperature rise could be a tipping point for the ecosystems in the Arctic region. An analysis of the Arctic Council declarations from the last 20 years shows that “while the contribution of CO₂ and non-CO₂ greenhouse gases to global warming was recognised, the Arctic Council declarations have shown a clear reluctance to cover CO₂ mitigation. Instead of pushing for fossil fuel phase out, the Arctic Council declarations repeatedly emphasised ‘environmentally sound oil and gas activities’ (see e.g. the Tromsø Declaration, 2009), pushing the focus from CO₂ mitigation to black carbon, methane, and hydrofluorocarbon emissions reduction.”5

Reinhold Pape

1. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/151115/arctic-sea-ice-below-ave...
2. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/mar/04/everyone-should-be-concern...
3. https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/feb/21/stronger-el-nino-eve...
5. https://www.airclim.org/sites/default/files/documents/1.5-a-tipping-poin...

In this issue

The forefront of cleaner, people-centred cities

Cities are dense and struggling with high levels of air pollution, sedentary behaviour and noise problems linked to car-centred urban planning. Traffic also takes up large areas in cities, resulting in lack of green spaces, and it is obvious that our oil dependency has fuelled climate change. Three cities with governments that are up for the challenge of re-thinking cities are Paris, Oslo and Barcelona, which are working to transform their cities from car-
centred to people-centred.

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