Melting sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic may be an economic boon, but it spells doom for sea life, warn experts
When it comes to the problems of melting sea ice at the poles, none will know better than the experts who are there researching the shifting climates and weather patterns which could affect the rest of the globe. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on May 6, however, that the rapidly declining levels of sea ice in the Arctic is a good thing. He said in a press conference in Rovaniemi, Finland, that there will be economic opportunities.
Pompeo said in his remarks: "The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13% of the world's undiscovered oil, 30% of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore."
These statements came on the same day that the UN released a report saying that one million species were now at risk of going extinct due to human action and climate change. He continued: "Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals."
Assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences from the University of Mary Washington, Dr. Pamela Grothe, told MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) that Polar regions are important for regulating global temperatures. "Sea ice is highly reflective and when it melts, it exposes more ocean surface to absorb the sun’s energy, causing even more warming. This will then accelerate even more sea ice loss."
The National Snow and Ice Data Center stated last week that April that it has seen a record low when it comes to sea ice extent. The sea ice loss was very rapid at the beginning of the month because of a decline in the Sea of Okhotsk. It slowed down after this because of the gain in the extent of the Bering and Barents Seas. However, daily ice extent remained at record low levels throughout the month.
The problem with the rapid melting of sea ice is not just that the Earth will get warmer, however, it's also about how millions of species will be affected, especially those that call these regions their home. Peter T. Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) told MEAWW: "From a biological point of view the loss of sea-ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic is starting to have severe consequences for many of the animal population that depend upon this unique environment."
He continued: "In Antarctica, the situation is complex, sea ice has increased in some areas but decline rapidly in others. The pattern has become more extreme; in 2014 we had a record high winter sea-ice extent, but since 2016 we have had record lows, with early 2019 being the lowest sea-ice extent ever recorded around the continent."
According to the US Global Change Research Program, the "loss of ice increases the risk of erosion along coastlines and changes the presence of marine species in certain areas, affecting commercial fish stocks and the economies of some coastal towns".
Fretwell added: "There are many species that live on and rely on the sea ice. In the Antarctic, emperor and Adelie penguins and four species of seals depend on the floating ice. The sea ice is also a critical nursery for krill — the prey item which is the staple of almost all higher predators in the Southern Ocean."
Will the problems with global climate change ever be taken seriously or will lawmakers across the world continue to live in a bubble where they believe everything is fine?