Despite the non-linear threshold behavior, Joe Romm is trying to keep a happy face. “The time to act [on climate change was] a while ago,” he somberly observes and then concludes his Science Progress post with “now is better than later.” And, the sarcastic After Gutenberg has to comment, “But, Joe, you understand, the Pollutocracy couldn’t act earlier, not enough melting had occurred, so that some real drilling could start in the Arctic.”
For those new to such doom-say exchange, the sarcasm comes from the belief that Professor Joe worries about the loss of sea ice and the seeming inevitability of an ice-free planet and not about Exxon and others increasing their quarterly profits by more tax-free billions.
In November, Rear Admiral David Titley, the Oceanographer of the Navy, testified that “the volume of ice as of last September has never been lower…in the last several thousand years.” Titley, who is also the Director of Navy’s Task Force Climate Change, said he has told the Chief of Naval Operations that “we expect to see four weeks of basically ice-free conditions in the mid to late 2030s.”
Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School has “projected a (virtually) ice-free fall by 2016 (+/- 3 yrs).”
Whether the Arctic goes virtually ice-free by 2019 — or whether it takes another decade — the outcome is now all but inescapable. In September, National Snow and Ice Data Center’s director Mark Serreze said, “The volume of ice left in the Arctic likely reached the lowest ever level this month” and “I stand by my previous statements that the Arctic summer sea ice cover is in a death spiral. It’s not going to recover.”
The death spiral is real — and quite consequential for humanity. in September, a first-of-its-kind analysis by an international team of 18 top scientists found “less ice covers the Arctic today than at any time in recent geologic history” and this ice loss is “unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities.”
O.K. first off, when Professor Joe uses the image of a death spiral, he’s not asking for your remorse about some polar bears, penguins and indigenous people in the way of progress (defined by the Plutocracy as drilling in the Arctic). No, Professor Joe worries that thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100. *
* Editor’s note to any freaky climatologist reading this: Professor Romm worried that the NDIC study reflected conservatives assumptions and underestimated the impact of this critical tipping point.
NCAR’s (National Center for Atmospheric Research) David Lawrence warns, “Our study suggests that, if sea-ice continues to contract rapidly over the next several years, Arctic land warming and permafrost thaw are likely to accelerate.”
And Professor Romm adds:
A February study by National Snow and Ice Data Center with conservative assumptions concluded, “Thawing permafrost feedback will turn Arctic from carbon sink to source in the 2020s, releasing 100 billion tons of carbon by 2100.” The paleoclimate record is not reassuring. And the National Science Foundation in 2010 even pointed out, “release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the [Eastern Siberian] shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”
And, the race to “achieve” a 4 degree centigrade rise in average global temperature means rising sea levels and more severe weather events.
- Arctic Assessment bombshell: “Global sea level is projected to rise by 0.9 – 1.6 meter by 2100? (climateprogress.org)
- The methane hydrate feedback revisited (climateprogress.org)
- NSIDC: Annual maximum Arctic sea ice extent reached, “tied for the lowest in the satellite record.” (climateprogress.org)
- Arctic sea ice volume: The death spiral continues – One-year-old ice in Beaufort Sea now a foot thinner than in 2009 (climateprogress.org)
- Tipping point : Melting Arctic ‘will accelerate climate change within 20 years’ (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Melting of the Arctic ‘will accelerate climate change within 20 years’ (independent.co.uk)