A meandering blog with no clear topic. You will find me talking about knitting, building, kids, social and economic issues, Alaska, and lots of other stuff.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

the arctic ice cap is in trouble


This is very disturbing. According to this article, which was updated just yesterday, until this summer, the smallest area of summer sea ice in the arctic ever recorded was 4.01 million square kilometers (I am not going to do the math to convert it into square miles. You can do that if you would like). On August 9, it was 3.98 million. Yesterday, it was 3.22 million. So in two weeks, the ice cap shrank by 760,000 square kilometers. After it was already smaller than it has ever been. And there is still several weeks of melting to come.

But what amazes me is what the media is saying about it. They are talking about the Russians planting a flag up there. And the Canadians talking about setting up a military base up there. Why? So they can get at the oil that had been previously unrecoverable. OK, now I don't know what anyone else thinks, but this seems incredibly circular and ludicrous. If I understand it correctly, it goes like this.

1. Us burning fossil fuels is causing global warming.
2. Global warming is causing the arctic ice cap to melt much more than it ever has since we started keeping records.
3. Now that the ice cap is melting we can drill for .... fossil fuels.

The ice caps melting, from what I have read, is a potentially very scary thing. Lookie what can happen:
1. Sea level rise
2. Release of seabed methane, which is a green house gas that is something like 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.
3. White, reflective ice is replaced by dark, absorbant water, meaning that more heat will be absorbed by the ocean, increasing the rate of ice melt.
4. When the arctic warms, the permafrost melts, causing lots of problems, including release of more methane into the atmosphere, the darkening of the tundra, and perhaps the end of the end of the Alaska Native subsistence ways.
5. If the western and northern Alaska coastline is no longer protected by sea ice, there will be more damage from winter storms, as has already been seen in the last couple years, forcing the relocation of coastal villages.

And those are just the consequences that come immediately to mind; I am sure there are more. But these are significant enough. And instead of trying to do something about it, we gleefully and greedily rush into those open waters in search of more. We seriously need to quit shitting in our own nest.

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