Arctic Tipping Point Happening

NWF   |   August 28, 2008

Polarbearandcub5fsm_jp082808_g Yesterday’s The Washington Post article Arctic sea ice drops to second lowest level on record highlights how important it is that we act now to confront the climate crisis.

Arctic sea ice currently covers 2.03 million square miles, which is the second-lowest sea ice extent ever measured since satellite measurements began in 1979. The record was set last September. Since there are three weeks left in this summer season, this year may beat that record.

Arctic scientists are saying this record melt could be described as a climate "tipping point." Arctic ice reflects sunlight and helps to cool the planet. Sea ice loss accelerates the global warming process through greater heat absorption by open water as compared to the reflective ice.

Polar bears rely on seals as their primary food source and hunt them from the ice. The decline in summer sea ice is forcing bears to fast longer in the summer. As a result, their nutritional status and ability to bear and raise young is decreasing. United States Geological Survey scientists conservatively project that two-thirds of the global polar bear population could disappear by 2050, including all of Alaska’s polar bears.

Some polar bears have been reported to have drowned as a result of the disappearance of summer sea ice. As described in The Washington Post article, Federal observers spotted nine polar bears swimming in the Chukchi Sea, some apparently trying to reach the polar ice, which was 400 miles away.

Scientist Bob Correll said "We’re moving beyond a point of no return."

Published: August 28, 2008