Is Arctic sea ice doomed to disappear?

2017-03-06 22:00


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Paris - There's good and bad news for people, and polar bears, threatened by the Arctic's vanishing sea ice, scientists said on Monday.

First the good news: summer ice cover is "virtually certain" to survive if average global warming does not rise more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial era levels, according to a study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"We estimate there is less than a 1-in-100 000 chance of an ice-free Arctic if global warming stays below 1.5°C," James Screen and Daniel Williamson from the University of Exeter wrote.

That should come a relief to indigenous peoples whose way of life, and livelihood, depend on ice persisting through the summer months. Already today, their houses are literally falling into the sea.

For polar bears, the stakes are even higher, experts say.

Climate change

With their total population reduced to around 26 000, polar bears would struggle to survive without the floating ice platforms from which they hunt seals and other prey.

On a global scale, several million square kilometres of white snow and ice reflect most of the solar radiation that hits it back into space.

Replace this giant mirror with deep blue ocean and that heat gets absorbed instead, accelerating climate change.

Why a 1.5°C temperature limit?

That is the "aspirational" goal laid down in the 196-nation Paris climate pact, along side a hard target of under 2°C, long identified as the guardrail for dangerous warming.

Read more on:    france  |  weather

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