Rhein on Energy and Climate

Satellites tracking the extent of sea ice in the Arctic have discovered that it will most probably reach a record low in 2012 since the the start of the surveillance programme 40 years ago.

Scientists now think that before the end of the decade the Arctic Sea might be ice free in the summer months. Until now, they had expected to that point to be reached only by the middle of the century.

This saddening news coincides with a tropical storm risking to overshadow the Republican Convention for the nomination of the presidential candidate held in Tampa, Florida. Whatever its impact on the proceedings of the Convention it is almost certain that neither the tropical storm nor the faster melting of Arctic Ice will make the Republican Party more amenable to more forceful actions against climate change.

Republican delegates are more likely to ignore the two events or even rejoice at the prospect of a shorter sea route from the East Coast to China during the summer months.

Why would faster melting of the Arctic Sea cover be so saddening ?

  • It will accelerate the pace of global warming,whatever human action to reduce green house gas emissions. Indeed, in the absence of an ice cover the “albedo effect” reflecting solar radiation will disappear. This will lead to more solar heat being captured on the earth’s surface.
  • The warming of the Arctic Sea will accelerate the melting of Greenland’s huge ice masses. Up to now scientists had expected that process to last for several centuries. Can they still be so sure?
  • If Greenland’s ice were to melt within the next 100-200 years the sea level would rise by 6 meters in three to six generations from today! That would imply incalculable damage for human civilisation that has always lived close to the Sea.

If confirmed by more in depth analyses, climate change might be much closer to the point of no return that climate scientists and policy makers have warned of,without much avail.

It would therefore be imperative to invite a few key climate scientists to address the world community at the forthcoming ministerial conference in Qatar, before delegates get lost in their bureaucratic proceedings.

Now it is urgent to act dramatically. Half-measures, let alone declarations will no longer do!

The EU Climate Commissioner would be well-advised to travel to a few key capitals and prepare action!

Brussels 28.08. 2012 Eberhard Rhein

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