Arctic warming threatens future of the planet, new evidence shows
Echoing warnings from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a new US government report shows that rising temperatures in the Arctic could have disastrous impacts on the rest of the planet, including sea level rise far beyond previous projections, more intense droughts in the western US and potentially massive releases of methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide.
The findings reinforce the urgency of world governments agreeing to a new global climate treaty, said WWF officials.
“These findings offer a startling view of the reality of climate change in the Arctic and the profound impact Arctic changes could have, and may already be having, on the future of the entire planet,” said Dr Richard Moss, WWF vice president for climate change.
“World governments just concluded two weeks of negotiations in Poland on a new climate treaty with disappointingly little progress to show. As negotiations continue over the course of the next year, this report should provide the sense of urgency necessary to secure an agreement next December in Copenhagen.”
The report, 'Abrupt Climate Change', issued by the US Climate Change Science Program, finds that additional warming of the Arctic – which it says is predicted by all global climate models – could set in motion a series of feedbacks that would greatly accelerate changes to the global climate.
Specifically, the report forecasts substantial sea level rise, more widespread and intense droughts, and potentially massive releases of methane gas.
The report was released in San Francisco today at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, the world’s largest gathering of earth scientists. In sessions co-organised by Dr Martin Sommerkorn, WWF’s senior Arctic climate change advisor, scientists described measurements of methane gas escaping from the ocean near Siberia, accelerated melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and Arctic sea ice, and changes to the tundra that increase carbon losses to the atmosphere.
“The Arctic is a regulator of the earth’s climate,” said Dr Sommerkorn. “We are seeing troubling signs that the dramatic changes in that region threaten the rest of the planet.”