The Importance of Sea Ice: Humanities Failure

We have been told countless times the horror of ice caps, icebergs and ice sheets melting, and many of us associate this with the depletion of polar bears and other arctic animals, but there is so much more than meets the eye. This article will run through the ways in which the loss of arctic ice impacts everyone and everything.

Considering the ‘Ice’ in ‘Crisis’

Many of us choose to brush climate change under the carpet. You could give humans a 100 years to save the planet and we would leave it to the last year, or less. However, climate change impacts everyone now, thus large-scale changes need to be made now. We lose arctic ice at an astonishing rate of around 13% per decade. Over the past 3 decades, the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by 95%.

If we are so against uncertainty and fear change, why are we not protecting that in which we cling on to: security in the future, when it will be our children and grandchildren that will be subjected to the unknown consequences of climate change? 

Why is ice loss such a major issue?

Negatively Impacts Global Temperatures

First of all, the melting of sea ice affects global temperatures. The arctic and the Antarctic act as the world’s cooler; snow and ice reflects heat back into the atmosphere which balances out parts of the world that absorb heat. If there is less ice, less heat is being reflected leading to more intense and frequent heat waves across the globe, in addition to more bitter winters. 

In turn, more unpredictable weather patterns will occur across the world, creating significant damage to crops on which humanity depends upon. This will lead to higher costs for food, but more importantly, it will hugely impact those who are in poverty and in other crises.

Ice melting in the Antarctic

Increases Hazardous Shipping

Not only does the melting of sea ice affect the climate, as a result of ice melting, new shipping routes are opening up. These are tempting time-savers since they are shorter and more direct routes, yet considerably more dangerous leading to more shipwrecks and oil spills, significantly affecting wildlife in a detrimental way.

Detrimental to Wildlife

Various animal species depend on sea ice. Seals and penguins depend on ice for shelter away from predators and polar bears depend on them to hunt, as is the circle of life.

Many polar animals seek refuge to more habitable areas leading to more human contact as they move to more urban areas. This poses a threat to animals that are seen as a threat and are therefore killed.

Many species are already dwindling in numbers due to habitat loss, so the effect of humans causing further decline in numbers can lead to extinction. All species serve a purpose in our ecosystem, so without them, many ecosystems would cease to exist.

Release of Permafrost Greenhouse Gases

Finally, permafrost. What is it? Permafrost is ground which is constantly frozen. It stores large amounts of methane and carbon dioxide. When it thaws, this methane and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, accelerating the greenhouse effect and global warming. 

But what is the point of this article? The point is to inspire, to lift the carpet and expose that which is happening right now. Here in the UK, we think that we cannot see the ice melting, and we need to stop ignoring that which we cannot see, because in actual fact, we can see it every day. We can see it in the worsening of forest fires, in the increase in natural disasters, in the wetter summers, and in the extinction of many species that depended on the habitat we are taking from them.

What can we do?

There have been some bizarre and unconventional ideas put forward, such as to spread a layer of glass beads on top of the surface, hoping that its blinding white surface will reflect more of the sun’s rays and decelerate melting, but there are many who believe that interfering with nature might cause further damage. Some more conventional ways in which we can prevent sea ice from melting is to significantly lower our greenhouse gas production. Sea ice would almost immediately stabilise if we were to halve our emissions next year. We would have twice as long until our sea ice vanishes. 

We can do our small part too. Small steps include eating low on the food chain by lowering our intake of animal products such as meat and dairy since the processing of meat and preventing it from spoiling uses a significant amount of energy. Other small steps include recycling and generally reducing your waste as this stops the need for new materials to be made, drive less and walk more, and invest in green energy such as solar panels! Even switching your light bulbs to energy saving ones makes a difference!

If we all dedicate ourselves to the simple mission of lowering our greenhouse gas emissions, that small part each causes a hugely significant impact. In reality, there is no reason as to why this is unachievable. If all world leaders came together with the same goal, we can definitely achieve this thus, there is hope!

“If you are going to have all of those thousands of tonnes of freshwater in the ice caps, melting and going into the sea, rising the sea level, changing the salinity, changing the climate and the way the winds circulate around the world, you are interrupting and changing a fundamental rhythm that our world has lived with for centuries – millennia – and what the consequences will be is anybody’s guess.”

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