Monday, February 16, 2009

Study links carbon, melting arctic A provocative new study of the record-setting Arctic thaw that's unlocking the Northwest Passage and transforming Canada's polar frontier has, for the first time, drawn a clear connection between rising global carbon pollution and the retreat of sea ice.

The study by top Norwegian climate researcher Ola Johannessen, to be published in October by the Chinese Academy of Sciences but obtained Friday by Canwest News Service, identified a “strengthening linkage” between the upward trend in CO2 emissions over the past century and the shrinking of the Arctic ice cap, which reached a historic minimum last year and appears headed for similar decreases this summer.

At a time when Canada’s next federal election is expected to turn on the debate over a proposed Liberal carbon tax, the scientific paper could add weight to arguments urging sharp reductions in carbon emissions to help slow or reverse climate-change impacts.

…Johannessen’s study, describing the state of Arctic Ocean ice as a “keystone indicator” of global climate change, concludes that “90 per cent of the decreasing sea-ice extent is empirically ‘accounted for’ by the increasing CO2 in the atmosphere” and that his tracking of the tight relationship between carbon pollution and the size of the ice cap points to “substantially faster ice decreases up to 2050 than predicted by IPCC models” - the forecasts produced by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning international scientific panel on climate change.

…The study also warns that calculations of sea-ice response to CO2 emissions could become meaningless if, as some scientists have conjectured, the planet reaches “a critical ‘tipping point’ for sea ice” when increasingly exposed Arctic waters absorb so much heat it triggers a rapid and irreversible depletion of the remaining year-round ice….

Arctic Hare (Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada), shot by Ansgar Walk, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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