Arctic ice in retreat

From the March-April 2013 issue of News & Letters:

World in View

by Gerry Emmett

Arctic ice in retreat

The National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA indicate that the extent of Arctic sea ice this January was the sixth lowest since satellite observation began. Air temperatures were 2 to 5 degrees Celsius higher than average across much of the Arctic Ocean (4 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit).

There is a linear rate of decline of sea ice cover of -3.2% per decade measured against the years from 1979–2000 average. Further, melting of the Greenland ice sheet in 2012 exceeded all previous years of satellite observations. Temperatures were 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above average over most of Greenland’s ice sheet.

The melting of Arctic ice holds many dangers, from rising sea levels to release of ancient methane frozen in permafrost and sea floors. There isn’t a lot of time left to address global warming as it is, but the counter-productive actions now being taken by governments are hard to believe.

CAPITALIST DEVELOPMENT DISASTER

The U.S., Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark are all seeking to develop the oil and natural gas reserves they expect to become available as Arctic ice retreats. Soviet-era polar explorer Artur Chilingarov is now shilling for Russian President Putin’s claims on the Arctic Ocean floor. He claims that “Our economy today is largely based on what was developed in the Arctic—oil, gas, diamonds, gold—thanks to the Soviet Union’s policies of exploring and producing there. But back then we did not go into the sea. Resources are not endless and our task now is to leave future generations the same chances of economic stability as the Soviet Union left us.”

It should be noted that the state-capitalist “Soviet Union” collapsed from within; was an environmental disaster area, from Chernobyl to Chelyabinsk; and left Russians with an average life expectancy of only 66.5 years (60 for men) as compared with 79.8 years in the European Union. Like the U.S.’s lust for tar sands oil and fracking, this kind of “development” is a local and global catastrophe in the process of happening.

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