Sailing to the North Pole
1. Arctic perennial ice shrank by 14 percent between 2004 and 2005.
2. Winter sea ice in the Arctic shrank by six percent per year for the last two years.
3. The progressively earlier breakup of the Arctic sea ice in the spring has shortened hunting season for female polar bears and led to a steady decrease in the weight of the bears.
Scientists are concerned that the melting trend is self-reinforcing; i.e., as the dark surface of the exposed ocean warms it will speed melting of the ice, exposing more and more ocean, which in turn will absorb more solar radiation and melt more ice in a positive feedback loop.
According to NASA, computer simulations of the warming effect of greenhouse gases has long predicted that winter sea ice would decline faster than summer sea ice. That was not the case until the last two years, "when record low winter ice cover and warmer temperatures have prevailed."
The news calls to mind this recently published exchange between New York Times science reporter Andrew Revkin and controversial scientist James Lovelock.
Revkin: If you could take any facet of society — elected officials, doctors, writers — and show them one thing that you think could motivate the scale of change you’re talking about, any idea what you might do?As Revkin notes in his intro, Lovelock's ideas are both anathema and gospel to environmentalists and his vision of the future is as bleak as they come. The man best known for conceiving the Gaia Hypothesis says he is not being alarmist, just sounding the alarm. In a profile, he tells a reporter from the Washington Post:
Lovelock: I would take them on a trip to the parts of the world where the changes are now maximum, and that is the Arctic. For example, not many years ago explorers were walking with dogsleds all the way to the North Pole regarding it as a great adventure. It’s only a matter of perhaps 30 years when they’ll have to go there in a sailboat.
People say, 'Well, you're 87, you won't live to see this,' I have children, I have grandchildren, I wish none of this. But it's our fate; we need to recognize it's another wartime.