Aug 27 2012

Sea Ice Melt Should Turn Up the Heat on the Climate Change Debate

Published by at 4:01 pm under Climate Change and tagged: , , , , ,

Romney on the campaign trail

This summer has been marked by a lot of record-breaking, and not just at the Olympics. In addition to Michael Phelp’s medals, America has experienced record high temperatures, record depletion of pastureland, and a record number of wildfires. Today, the Earth hit a new record:  record sea ice melt.

Thought the consequences of this newest record are far less immediate than wildfires or droughts, for long-term effects, sea ice cover is an important indicator of what’s in store for the future. One of the major challenges in stopping climate change is that scientists are unsure when we reach a “point of no return” where the ecological momentum towards a drastically changed planet is too strong to stop or even slow by reducing the human contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.  Sea ice melt is one of the drivers of that momentum.

Here’s The Guardian on the significance of sea ice:

The consequences of losing the Arctic’s ice coverage for the summer months are expected to be immense. If the white sea ice no longer reflects sunlight back into space, the region can be expected to heat up even more than at present. This could lead to an increase in ocean temperatures with unknown effects on weather systems in northern latitudes.

So record low sea ice is a serious milestone. But as climate change gets more serious, the discourse about it gets less so. Just last week, presumptive Presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his energy plan announcing that he would achieve North American energy independence by 2020. How would Romney achieve such an ambitious (to say the least) goal? No one should be surprised that his answer is to open more drilling and remove credits for wind power. Though Obama is better on policy, even he has been studiously avoiding any mention of climate change on the campaign trail.

Despite the very real and immediate problems we are experiencing because of climate change, our politicians seem content to pretend it doesn’t exist and, in Romney’s case, attempt to move us backwards from what meager advances we’ve made toward sustainable energy production. Meanwhile, the planet continues to warm, approaching the point of no return. This new record has only highlighted how close that point is, if we’re haven’t crossed it already, and makes it more imperative than ever that climate change not disappear from the political discourse.

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