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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Life on Thin Ice™ by Jenny E. Ross, February 16, 2012

Life on Thin Ice™

Life on Thin Ice™

Human-caused atmospheric warming is fundamentally altering the climate system that supports life on Earth as we know it. Nowhere is this fact more apparent – and more globally crucial – than in the Arctic, where temperatures are heating up more rapidly than anywhere in the world. As vast expanses of Arctic sea ice melt and disappear, ice-dependent species are facing dire threats to their continued survival, and the entire planet is losing an essential air-conditioning system. In addition, the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is already causing sea level to rise worldwide. By the end of this century, if emissions of planet-heating pollutants continue at the current pace, this is expected to result in flooding of major coastal cities and inundation of low-lying countries. Furthermore, thawing permafrost beneath the tundra and on the arctic seafloor will ultimately release huge quantities of powerful greenhouse gases, potentially causing runaway climate warming on a scale unprecedented for tens of millions of years. The long-term consequences will be catastrophic not only for life in the Arctic but also for life across the globe.