The melting north

The Economist has a Special Report on “The melting north” (hopefully that works for you, I have a subscription so I’m not sure if its behind their paywall or not).

And what it says –

A heat map of the world, colour-coded for temperature change, shows the Arctic in sizzling maroon. Since 1951 it has warmed roughly twice as much as the global average. In that period the temperature in Greenland has gone up by 1.5°C, compared with around 0.7°C globally. This disparity is expected to continue. A 2°C increase in global temperatures—which appears inevitable as greenhouse-gas emissions soar—would mean Arctic warming of 3-6°C. Almost all Arctic glaciers have receded. The area of Arctic land covered by snow in early summer has shrunk by almost a fifth since 1966. But it is the Arctic Ocean that is most changed. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s the minimum extent of polar pack ice fell by around 8% per decade. Then, in 2007, the sea ice crashed, melting to a summer minimum of 4.3m sq km (1.7m square miles), close to half the average for the 1960s and 24% below the previous minimum, set in 2005… There is no serious doubt about the basic cause of the warming. It is, in the Arctic as everywhere, the result of an increase in heat-trapping atmospheric gases, mainly carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels are burned

– is not desperately exciting for anyone who has been paying attention. What is interesting is that there isn’t even the smallest sop to the deniers in there. The sea ice record is taken for, well, for exactly what it is. There are no stupid quibbles about the temperature record. No-one wastes their time asking Lindzen or Spencer what they think of the trends, and no-one proposes that “its the sun” or space aliens or whatever.

Of course, the Economist (the clue is in the name) is also interested in other matters, so it looks at the possibilities of shorter shipping routes, and expansion of farmland. But ends with:

Yet how to reconcile the environmental risks of the melting Arctic with the economic opportunities it will present? The shrinkage of the sea ice is no less a result of human hands than the ploughing of the prairies. It might even turn out as lucrative. But the costs will also be huge. Unique ecosystems, and perhaps many species, will be lost in a tide of environmental change. The cause is global pollution, and the risks it carries are likewise global. The Arctic, no longer distant or inviolable, has emerged, almost overnight, as a powerful symbol of the age of man.


* A short walk in the Stubai: day 2: Aperer Turm