Years of global warming affect Arctic sea ice caps

The Arctic ice has officially stopped melting for the summer, but that does not mean we can rest easy. Researchers predict that the ice will be completely melted by year 2020, reports The New York Times, leaving animals in danger and sea levels rising.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center released research indicating that the lowest record of the year was reached on Sept. 16; sea ice covered 24 percent of the Arctic Ocean, a total of 1.32 million square miles. The previous low was 29 percent, set in 2007.

Some may wonder why this is a problem.

Every day we burn fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas, which emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This induces global warming, making the Arctic sea a victim of natural decline.

Kassie Siegal, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, wrote an article in the Huffington Post predicting how the meltdown threatens the world.

“While Arctic sea ice is a victim of global warming, it’s also one of the planet’s most important defenses against the climate change … and that defense is about to fail,” said Siegal.

“The Arctic is the earth’s air conditioner,” said Walt Meier, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, to The New York Times. “We’re losing that. It’s not just that polar bears might go extinct, or that native communities might have to adapt … there are larger climate effects.”

With the Arctic warming and ice melting, wildlife is in danger and plant species are at risk of extinction. Additionally, the terrestrial landscape is changing and severe weather patterns are foreseen in our future.

“We don’t realize the consequence of our actions because as of right now, we aren’t the ones that have to suffer,” said sophomore Logan Hardin. “The polar bears rely on ice to get around, but with it melting, they will have to swim and they can’t swim forever.”

The people who will be most affected are those who live closest to the water. CNN reports that scientists have found that in cases of Arctic change, the climate for the rest of the world changes as well.

This issue extends to the political realm as well. The international efforts to address global warming using effective policies have failed. Kyle Dell, associate professor of political science, shared his input on the subject.

“Since the Clinton Administration refused to fight to have the Kyoto Protocol ratified by the U.S. Senate in the mid-1990s, there has been little effective international effort to limit the man-made inputs causing global warming,” said Dell.

With the news of the Arctic ice melting, oil companies are rushing to get in on the action. Shipping and oil companies, as well as fishermen, benefit from a relatively ice-free Arctic, which is rich in fish and minerals.

Although oil companies and other nations may benefit from these exports, the risk factors are very high, along with harsh conditions. The possibility of another big oil spill is also becoming a concern.

“People aren’t worried enough about the situation to change behaviors,” said Associate Professor of Geology David Dobson.

Our actions as a society have finally caught up with us and the Arctic is one of the many victims.