New arctic research underscores urgency of CO2 reduction effortsFollowing new studies showing that perennial sea ice will disappear entirely this century, WWF, the conservation organization, is calling on all governments, in particular Russia and Canada who are currently considering ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, to take immediate action to reduce CO2 emissions immediately.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, USA, the extent of arctic sea ice in September was 14 percent below the average for the 24-year-period during which data has been collected, and four percent lower than the previous record. These observations are supported by a NASA study released last week, which found that perennial sea ice in the Arctic is melting three times faster than previously thought, at a rate of nine percent per decade. If these melting rates continue for a few more decades, NASA said, the perennial sea ice will disappear entirely this century.
·The 2002 ice anomaly is the most recent manifestation of a general downward trend in ice cover,· said Mark Serreze, research scientist at the University of Colorado. ·The trend is linked to changes in a large-scale atmospheric phenomenon known as the Arctic Oscillation (AO). Over the past several decades, the AO has brought warmer and windier conditions which act together to promote ice loss. There is increasing evidence that the change in the AO is partly a result of human activities.·
Given the results of these two studies, WWF is calling on governments to speed up their domestic programmes to reduce CO2 emissions. WWF would also like to see Russia and Canada, which have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol, doing so within the next months, so that it becomes international law. The Kyoto Climate Treaty will be the first legally binding international agreement for environmental protection and sustainable development on a global scale. It is the world·s only agreement for limiting global warming pollution, and is also the basis for increasingly effective global action against climate change in the coming decades. Mandatory domestic programmes must be put in place in all industrialised countries, including the United States, where the Bush Administration has rejected the Kyoto Protocol.
Climate change impacts are especially evident, as temperatures in the Arctic are now warmer - and remain warmer for longer periods · than ever before, causing a lengthening of the ice-free season. The changes are disruptive to arctic ecosystems and species like the polar bear that will suffer if ice-free periods increase.
·It appears likely that increasing lengths of the summer and fall ice-free periods in the southern parts of polar bear range, such as in Hudson Bay, may become too long for the polar bears to be able to sustain themselves there,· said Ian Stirling, a polar bear scientist at the Canadian Wildlife Service. ·At this point, it is difficult to predict exactly what will happen in the Canadian High Arctic archipelago and in the polar basin over the short term. Over the longer term however, loss of the permanent multi-year ice pack will result in major changes in biological productivity of the marine areas, which will affect arctic seal species, and ultimately, polar bears.·
"While the Arctic is melting, some governments are still dragging their feet on ratifying the Kyoto Treaty," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of the WWF Climate Change Programme. "Sound national policies must be implemented now to reduce carbon pollution, and Kyoto ratification is an essential first step against climate change."