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Arctic ice loss is “stunning” — total loss possible by 2030, scientists warn

Last week, the Arctic lost an area of ice “almost twice as big as the UK.” The normally staid US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) reported:

Even more stunning is that the August 2007 monthly average is the lowest extent in the satellite record for any month, including any previous September, which is typically the lowest month each year.

The NSIDC notes “Another notable aspect of August 2007 was the opening of the Northwest Passage.”

Human-caused climate change is remaking the planet. Ice retreat back in 2005 was already faster than any of the 19 IPCC climate models had predicted. An NSIDC Arctic specialist said: “It’s amazing. It’s simply fallen off a cliff and we’re still losing ice.” He then added:

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“If you asked me a couple of years ago when the Arctic could lose all of its ice then I would have said 2100, or 2070 maybe. But now I think that 2030 is a reasonable estimate. It seems that the Arctic is going to be a very different place within our lifetimes, and certainly within our childrens’ lifetimes.”

What does this mean? A synthesis report in August 2005 by twenty-one leading climate scientists, supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Arctic Systems Science Program, noted that a summer ice-free Arctic Ocean is “a state not witnessed for at least a million years” and added

The change appears to be driven largely by feedback-enhanced global climate warming, and there seem to be few, if any, processes or feedbacks within the Arctic system that are capable of altering the trajectory toward this “super interglacial” state.

We continue to underestimate crucial amplifying feedbacks that threaten much more serious global warming impacts much sooner than anticipated.

The time to act is now.