Melting Point

The Doomsday Clock must surely be clicking towards midnight. This year another climate change landmark has been reached and this is a serious cause for concern especially as it has happened way ahead of most projections by at least a decade or two. I refer to the fact that the North Pole has become an island for the first time in human history.

The last time this occurred is estimated at 125,000 years ago. The famed legendary Northwest Passage to the Orient for which so many died, which lies through Canadian waters, is now truly open for sea-traffic and is a reality. The Russian counterpart or the Northeast Passage is also open simultaneously.

What is Big Business’ s reaction? The shipping companies are already jumping for joy and are barely able to contain their excitement. The Beluga group, based in Bremen, Germany, plans to send the first ship through the North-East passage next year, cutting 4,000 nautical miles off the voyage from Germany to Japan. Many others are expected to do something similar.

Comediennes might find some humor in suggesting that Santa will have to have a Summer Re-location Sale. Or they might suggest that now is a good time to challenge the records for the quickest walk to the North pole.

However, this truly is a dire development and one that must be seen in that light instead of being touted as a shipping business opportunity. Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist, described the images as an ‘historic event’ – but warned they added to fears that the Arctic icecap has entered a ‘death spiral’. The next doomsday marker would be the absence of ice altogether at the North Pole during summer. Earlier projections suggested that it would be at least a century away but recent observations raise possibilities that it may occur as recent as in the next 5 years. The more optimistic project the polar meltdown for 2030.

How this massive meltdown and increase in freshwater will affect global climate systems and ecosystems is another serious question? For now though, the plight of the polar bears (my previous post here) is very real and very present. Previously, the ice floes on which they hunt were forming later in the year causing some to starve to death but now even those that make it to the floes are in danger of drowning as the floes melt earlier and more completely.

In a recently reported story, a group of 9 polar bears were found trying to swim to the polar ice cap after the floe on which they were hunting had melted. Solid land lies a mere 60 miles south of their position but they swam north expecting to find the ice cap. However, the receding polar ice cap means that the nearest ice is now 400 miles away. Without help, none of the 9 bears are expected to survive. A different group managed a journey of 100 miles but some in that group drowned. There is now talk of getting a ship up there to pick up the struggling bears.

Four weeks ago, tourists had to be evacuated from Baffin Island’s Auyuittuq National Park in northern Canada because of flooding from thawed glaciers. Ironically,the park’s name means ‘land that never melts’.

I think all of mankind is now on shaky ground and the whole world with us. Our politicians should realise the life and death implications of climate change and stop fighting over small monetary issues. Let us leave a world for our children. Let us act to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


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