Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on January 17, 2008
The earth is warming — not exactly a news flash. One question that remains is how fast. Data from this summer shows an alarming increase in the rate that sea ice melted in the Arctic. And if ice keeps melting at this rate, the Arctic seas could be ice free in the summer of 2012 – nearly 30 years earlier than prior worst estimates.
It’s actually a simple matter of black and white. Ice (which is white) reflects the sun’s rays and about 80% of the sun’s energy, but the sea (which is dark, almost black) absorbs about 90% of the sun’s energy. Warmer global temperatures means less ice up North, which is then exacerbated by more energy being absorbed by the sea, leading to further melting.
This process has fluctuated over millennia – there has rarely been a consistent amount of ice in the Arctic – within a few percentage points. According to a report from ABC news, the tipping point was reached in the summer of 2007 when startling decreases in sea ice were measured that reached nearly 50% below even the worst previous years. Scientists are now speculating that the earth has reached some tipping point, where Arctic seas will remain ice-free in the summer unless significant CO2 change happens now. Scientists were so startled this past summer that they significantly adjusted their ice-free projections.
Did we really hear the alarm? This information was released near the end of the Bali conference, which ended with delaying CO2 emission restrictions for at least two more years. I try to avoid being too alarmist, but if there is a critical threshold – a point of no return – we are getting dangerously close to it, and we can’t afford to keep baby-stepping away from dirty energy.