Thank you for taking the time to join us for Millennials for Climate Action's winter fundraising event! Since it's getting chilly, we thought that it would be fitting to discuss the effects of climate change in the Arctic.
The Arctic is a unique and fragile ecosystem. Oddly enough, seasonal
changes effect the Arctic much like other areas across the globe. Sea ice thins slightly in the "hot" months and gets much thicker in the colder months. Arctic adapted animals rely on thick sea ice for a variety of mating, feeding and denning behaviors. Unfortunately, climate science has shown that the Earth's poles are warming 2x as fast as the global average and we are seeing more thinning of Arctic sea ice than there should be. Some scientists have predicted that by the year 2037 there will be no Arctic sea ice left.  This would endanger a number of Arctic adapted species  including polar bears, narwhals, beluga whales, bowhead whales, gray whales, pacific walruses, bearded seals, ringed seals, Greenland sharks, spectacled eiders, and the list goes on.
As we continue to see large amounts of Arctic ice melt, we will also see rapidly rising sea levels and frequent coastal flooding. Nearly, 40% of Americans live in densely populated coastal areas. These areas are at risk, if we do not curb our carbon emissions to help slow the warming that is causing accelerated ice melt.  The effects are amplified for many low lying island nations and we are already seeing people being displaced by rising sea levels. It is also good to note that as we global average temperatures rise, both the atmosphere and the ocean are rising in temperature. As ocean water warms, it takes up more space by a process called thermal expansion. This means that due to global warming, both ice melt and thermal expansion are contributing to rising sea levels.
Unfortunately, ice melt is also exacerbating global warming! This is due to the Albedo effect. The Albedo effect describes the process by which heat from sun is either absorbed by the Earth's surface or reflected back out of the atmosphere. The polar ice caps, glaciers and sea ice all have a high albedo. This means that due to their white color, they reflect heat out of the atmosphere. Surrounding ocean water and lush land both have a lower albedo due to their darker color. This causes absorption of heat from the sun. As Arctic ice melts, the reflective properties of the poles is being diminished and warming is occurring faster than it has in the past.  In the photo below you can see how in the past Pedersen Glacier may have reflected more heat out of the atmosphere than it can today.
Currently, the Arctic is facing a very immediate threat. The Trump administration is rushing to lease off oil drilling rights for a large piece of costal land that is part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This land and the icy waters off the coast are home to dozens of Arctic adapted species. One of the dangers of drilling in this area is the possibility of a large oil spill. Unfortunately, if an event like this were to occur it would be detrimental due to the fact that there is not a proven method to clean up oil spills in icy Arctic water.  Even without an oil spill, there is also a large amount of pollution and habitat degradation that would occur in the process of seismic testing and drilling. This would endanger many species that call this land home including gray wolves, musk oxen, caribou, arctic foxes, and polar bears. Please take a moment to sign the National Resources Defense Council and Green Peace's petitions to stop the Trump administration from leasing this land.
We will be donating a portion of the funds raised today to help the Ocean Conservancy in their efforts to keep the Arctic habitable for all of the species that rely on it. Part of their initiative is to prevent the leasing of Arctic land to oil companies. If you would like to donate directly or read more about their work, follow the link below.
And as always, think of ways to be climate conscious this holiday season. The polar bears are counting on you!