(Must-watch video that includes direct observation and analysis of Arctic tipping points provided by a number of the world’s top climate scientists.)
You don’t want to mess with Arctic warming. It’s an engine of destruction straining to be set loose. A mad burning beast of a thing. One whose fires we are now in the process of stoking to dangerous extremes.
Don’t believe me? Then just listen to top scientists like Dr. Jennifer Francis, Dr. Jason Box, Dr. Jeff Masters, Dr. Natalia Shakhova, Dr. Igor Semiletov, Dr. Peter Wadhams, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Steve Vavrus, Dr. Ron Prinn, Dr. Kevin Schaefer, Dr. Nikita Zimov, Dr. Jorien Vonk, and a growing list of many, many more (also see above video).
An Arctic that Appears on the Verge of Large Carbon Emissions Adding to an Already Dangerous Human Warming
At issue is the fact that the Arctic is very sensitive to global heat forcing. And any small warming there can rapidly trigger a number of feedbacks that generate more warming for the Arctic and the globe. These feedbacks include but are not limited to:
Snow and sea ice melt resulting in darker surfaces absorbing more sunlight during summer times, a warming global ocean system transporting a high percentage of the added heat north and southward along the ocean bottom and at the surface, rising temperatures in the Arctic slowing and increasing the waviness of the Jet Stream which generates more south to north transfer of temperate and tropical warmth into the Arctic together with a greater export of Arctic cold to the lower latitudes, added greenhouse gasses resulting in much warmer Arctic winters during the times of darkness when greenhouse gas trapping of long wave radiation is most efficient, and an increasing release of carbon from stores sequestered in the Arctic for millions of years, adding to the overall greenhouse gas burden in this, very sensitive, region.
Many of these feedbacks and resulting weather alterations are now in play.
We have observed sea ice reductions of up to 80 percent in total volume losses together with major snow cover reductions since the 1970s. We have observed substantial and growing releases of methane from the Arctic environment in the form of emissions in the region of the submerged permafrost on the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. We have witnessed strange methane emissions emerging in the smoke of major wildfires that have spread over large regions of the Arctic during summer. We’ve seen very troubling emissions in the form of methane eruptions coming from the permafrost and possibly reaching as deep as the methane clathrate layer beneath the permafrost. We’ve seen increasing methane releases from permafrost melt lakes. And we’ve seen increasing CO2 emissions from the dry decay of permafrost and from the direct burning of permafrost and boreal forests by Arctic wildfires.
(Trio of massive Siberian Wildfires raging on August 3, 2014. Burn scar size ranges from 90 to 350+ square miles. Image source: LANCE-MODIS.)
In total, according to scientists in the above video, under an unmitigated and continuously rising heat forcing from human greenhouse gas emissions, the Arctic could release 120 gigatons of carbon or more by the end of this century. Given that humans now dump 13 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, the Arctic emission would be like adding another decade of current human emissions on top of an already rapidly warming system. Even worse, a significant portion of the Arctic carbon emission could appear in the form of methane — a gas that traps heat far more rapidly than CO2, equaling a heat forcing that is about 60 times CO2 by volume.
A Call From Scientists For Rapid Mitigation
It is important to note that, though strange and terrifying as they may be, current Arctic feedbacks and related carbon emissions are minor when compared to the changes we will unlock if we continue to release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Under BAU, it is possible that we will set in place a regime of Arctic carbon emissions that is equal to 30% or more of the current human greenhouse gas emission. This sizeable release would likely then last for centuries until much of the Arctic carbon store of 1,500+ gigatons locked in permafrost and untold other gigatons locked in clathrates were exhausted. Such releases would result in a mini-runaway that could lock in dangerous hothouse climate conditions for millions of years to come.
Due to the extreme nature of the current situation, some damage is now unavoidable, as we probably hit at least 2-3 C warming long term even if human greenhouse gas emissions suddenly halt. But major damage can still be prevented through direct and coordinated action on the part of nations. For this reason, climate scientists are calling for an 80% or greater reduction in near term human greenhouse gas emissions. A strong direct urging from some of the best scientists in the world and one that we should take very seriously as it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Arctic is now in the process of crossing a number of extremely dangerous tipping points.
I implore you to watch the above video and to do everything in your power to support policies that rapidly draw down the human greenhouse gas emission. Our timeframe window for effective response is rapidly closing and we need swift, direct action now.