There are several far reaching implications to the environment, such as rising sea levels, the acceleration of ice loss from Greenland and the Arctic, and the huge amount of carbon dioxide emissions which are released into the atmosphere. This year’s summer storms were the aftermath of the reduction of Arctic sea ice and warmer than average surface temperatures in the North West Atlantic. Global warming is also responsible for droughts and heat waves that were prevalent in America earlier this year.
In the Arctic, global warming has intensified and is warming faster than any other part of the planet. Scientists have monitored the rate of the melting ice since 1979, but it has reached its lowest level this year and it is set to deteriorate for another week. Melting Arctic permafrost can be catastrophic to the planet because methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, is encased in the ice sheets and when these melt the gas seeps into the atmosphere which could accelerate warming further.
By 2070, scientists have predicted that the Arctic will be bereft of ice, which could endanger many species such as polar bears. When the Arctic no longer has any ice it will absorb sunlight which influences wind systems, which could then have a knock on effect for Europe because it would be become colder in northern Europe and drier in the southern region. Rising sea levels are also a big concern; ocean waters are rising approximately 3mm per year globally – some countries are affected much more, namely those around the Philippine sea which has seen a rise of 10mm each year. The rise is due to the oceans absorbing more heat due to the aftermath of the unprecedented loss of water from ice sheets and glaciers.
Global warming also has a measurable effect on our food chain: by 2050 the size of fish will decrease by at least a quarter, although according to comprehensive research carried out by the University of York the acidification of the ocean, due to carbon dioxide emissions, will actually decrease fish stocks because many are unable to adapt to a change in water conditions.
Scientists continue to research feasible geo-engineering techniques in the hope that we can delay the acceleration of the planet’s rising temperatures; the cost of the operations can be expensive and sometimes bring fruitless results. One thing is for certain this winter: the shrinking of the Arctic sea ice will bring harsh weather conditions to Britain and beyond.
Image by Scheherazade Al Arab