A is for the Arctic, Which is Melting

“I have been looking at Arctic weather patterns for 35 years and have never seen anything close to what we’ve experienced these past two winters,”

— Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (via Quartz)

When it comes to talk about the effects of global warming a lot of focus has been on Antartica, which saw record low levels of ice this past year, but as winter in the Northern Hemisphere comes to an end all eyes are on the Arctic as the trend toward higher temperatures, low sea ice levels, and shockingly low levels of human panic and action continue.

For a bit of background, when I talk about the Arctic I am talking about the sea of ice to the north of Canada and Russia. In the summer, every summer, the ice melts as the sun becomes a constant fixture in the sky, and every winter the ice freezes again. It’s all normal and all due to Earth’s orbit, tilt, and the natural warming and cooling the seasons bring.

This winter the Arctic froze, and when scientists measured the ice at it’s largest extent, there was a whole lot missing. Average Arctic ice extent should be something like 6.04 million square miles, in March of 2017, when we take these kinds of measurements, we had 5.57 million square miles of ice. We are missing 471,000 square miles of ice! And this isn’t the first time we have been below average, and it is not going to be the last.

Less ice might not like such a big deal, except that it is. Arctic sea ice melt contributes to further and faster warming, since our bright white ice cap will be gone, it won’t reflect the sun’s rays back into space ad instead the heat will be absorbed by the ocean. Sea levels will rise, of course, and that’s bad for anyone living along the coast which is a whole lot of American citizens. Ocean and air currents will change due to the ice being gone and the temperatures being warmer. This leads to more climate change on average and more unstable weather patterns day to day.

And of course, in the end, it all boils down to more death and suffering for animals and mostly poor people who are already suffering, but it won’t end with them. We will all feel the ramifications of this.

A wise man once said “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” and despite the fact that, yes, sea ice freezes and melts according to the seasons and yes anomalies happen and some years are freakishly colder or warmer than others the truth is  that for a while now we have been trending farther and farther outside of the averages. Take a look at the terrifying graph below for example:

nsidc_global_extent_byyear_b
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that part on the right that’s clearly outside of the gray area average, that was the end of 2016, far outside even a regular bad year. See the little line on the left sitting below every other year back to 1978? That’s the beginning of 2017 continuing along on a catastrophic path toward sea level rise, ocean ecosystem disruption, and the first signs of the end times.

Now, if we remember our geometry education back in high school, we know that area and volume are different. Could it be that the ice is still there but just taking on a different shape? Nope. Take a look at this graph of bad news showing monthly global ice by volume:

giomas-year-global
https://sites.google.com/site/arctischepinguin/home/global-sea-ice

See that line veering off to the right well outside the mean and below every other year as far back as 1981, that’s 2016. I haven’t seen a version with 2017 on it yet, but I would bet a lot of money that just like ice area measurements we are still trending down and still, no one is doing anything about it. Instead, we’re running around arguing about whether or not the problem is even real.

This is not normal. None of this is normal! You may hear people talk about natural cycles but take a look at another graph. This one shows measurement of atmospheric CO2 found in drilled ice cores containing bubbles of air from thousands of years ago. See that big spike on the end, well outside of anything ever, that 1950 to now. It is us! We are doing this!

15_co2_left_061316
https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/

Now, this is all pretty bad, but it actually gets even worse. So much worse. All hope of stopping these trends is gone. We have done too much damage. CO2 measurements will continue to rise, and the ice is going to go on melting, even if we stopped everything, all the cars, all the deforestation, all the burning, today. There is just no way, right now, that we can get the gasses we put into the atmosphere, and the ocean, back out.

We are fucked. We are so fucked and so stupid.

Scientists started warning us back in 60s that burning fossil fuels and putting greenhouse gases like CO2 and methane into the atmosphere were going to lead to a warmer Earth which would lead to collapsing ecosystems and unstable weather patterns but too many people wanted to keep on making money and fought long and hard, and are still fighting today, to keep you from panicking or changing the way you do things.

So what can you do now? Hell, why do anything if we are already too far gone?

Well, even thought the earth is going to warm and the climate is going to change, and many many people and animals are going to die, we can lessen the extent and the suffering if we start today.

The EPA has a list of things you can do today, but ost of us have read it and have made the changes that we can, but what we really need to do now is get the people who are in charge to stop being so damn selfish and stupid and do something about it. We need to contact our leaders in Congress and let them know that we will not stand for their cowardice any longer. You can even fax them by text now! There is no excuse.

Change needs to happen now if we want to have a future where humans can at least survive, and you need to ask yourself here and now, do you care? Be honest with yourself, do you want something to be done, or do you like it better when you pretend there is no consensus or science to back this up? Are you a part of the solution or part of the problem?

***

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This post was written for the 2017 Blogging A to Z Challenge. My theme is The World is Really an Awful Place. You can read the rest of the posts under the AtoZ2017 tag.

Featured image via Unsplash

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An Open Letter to the Climate Change Denialist

Dear Climate Change Denialist,

I’m writing you today because I truly cannot fathom how you could not believe that climate change is real and that humans are the cause. I hope you will not take this the wrong way but I find your thinking to be both harmful to the entire human race, and incredibly stupid.

To disagree with 97% of scientist who are trained and study this phenomenon takes an ego larger than I can imagine. To continue to stay uninformed on a major subject of world, not just U.S., politics must require a lot of energy. How do you manage not to encounter one true fact about this subject is beyond me. Or maybe you do but you tell yourself that it can’t be true.

The mental gymnastics required for either scenario are almost admirable.

Just in case I am wrong and you just honestly don’t know the facts, here are a few things I’m going to need you to seriously consider before you vote in anymore elections:

  1. Average global sea level is expected to rise 7 – 23 inches before the end of this century. This doesn’t seem so bad unless you realize how many people actually live close to a coast, about half of the world’s population If that doesn’t move you consider the fact that sea levels are rising three- to four-times faster along parts of the United States’ East Coast than they are globally. Does that hit home yet?
  2. California is in the midst of a staggering drought. In fact, it’s been at least half a millennium since California has been this dry. Add to that the extreme high temperatures and you have a serious wildfire issue and a strain on agriculture and drinking water supplies. Texas isn’t faring much better with record rain fall in the spring leading to floods and then no rain at all leading to a drought. These conditions are not usual for these areas and seem to be getting worse every year. How long until these people have no water to drink let alone water for farming?
  3. More than a million species face potential extinction as a result of disappearing habitats, changing ecosystems, and acidifying oceans! Yes, evolution is a thing, but it needs time and even with time there is no guarantee that a species will adapt to changing conditions. Oceans are warming, droughts are killing vegetation, ice sheets are melting, animals are having to climb higher into mountains to find food. We are killing them!
  4. 2014 was the world’s hottest year on record. This year the world has experienced record-breaking warmth every month so far. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said that 2015 was 97% likely to be the hottest year so far, eclipsing 2014. I wonder how bad things will be next year, and the next, and the next…?

Knowing all that, how can you continue to support legislation that blocks efforts to clean up our air and reduce our  impact on the rest of the world? How can you support politicians that are paid to keep us ignorant and do what hurts us all in the long run?

I beg you to please, stop and think about more than yourself. Think of the other life on this planet that has no choice but to suffer at the hands of humans. Think about other countries that are unfairly impacted by our unwillingness to make any significant changes. Think about the future generations that will have to deal with, and clean up our mess! Think of what history will have to say about us and what we did. Will they say we were the stupid ones who had the chance to make a difference or did we fuck it all up.

I beg you to do a little research. Stop looking to a political party that cares nothing for the ways this will impact you and your family to tell you what is going on. Look to the scientific community, the majority of whom care very much about facts and the future. Scientists love this planet and hate to lose any bit of it. Look to them to tell you what the facts are. They are trained to study this phenomenon. They know more than your favorite candidate in the election and they are not as easily bought.

And finally, I beg you, please if you cannot help, get out of the way of people who can. If you cannot contribute to the conversation, stop talking. Do not let your ego force you to get in the middle of a movement where you only create controversy and slow down progress. You are not so important that you must always be heard. You are not so smart that your opinion is equal to those who know more than you.

In closing, I hope this letter has made you reevaluate your current thinking. If it hasn’t I encourage you to read it again and then head over to Google for some much needed education on the subject.

I wish you the best of luck, for all our sakes!

Warmest Regards*,

Lisa

In response to Daily Post’s Blogging U. course, Writing 101 assignment: Reinvent the letter format

*Pun entirely intended