Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

d56d540346f86f100f01c401_pa2712c.jpg

The Vanishing Arctic

In September, the sea-ice cover on the Arctic Ocean melted all the way back to the record-low level recorded in September 2007. If this continues, we will probably see an ice-free North Pole within the next 10-20 years – with disastrous consequences for the global climate system.

BERLIN – Largely unnoticed, a silent drama has been unfolding over the past weeks in the Arctic. The long-term consequences will far outstrip those of the international debt crisis or the demise of the Libyan dictatorship, the news stories now commanding media attention. The drama – more accurately, a tragedy – playing out in the North is the rapid disappearance of the polar ice cap, the Arctic Ocean’s defining feature.

In September, the sea-ice cover on the Arctic Ocean melted all the way back to the record-low level recorded in September 2007. At 4.4 million square kilometers, it was the smallest ice cover since satellite observations began 40 years ago, with 40% less ice than in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Back in 2007, the record low stunned climate scientists, who considered it an outlier in an otherwise much slower decline in sea-ice cover. We blamed unusual wind conditions in the Arctic that year. But satellite data since then have proven us wrong. This year, we reached the same low level without exceptional wind conditions. It is now clear that we are not just seeing a steady decline of sea-ice cover, but a rapidly accelerating decline.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/FH7CEeN;
  1. elerian122_Peter MacdiarmidGetty Images for Somerset House_bigdatascreentechman Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Somerset House

    Adapting to a Fast-Forward World

    Mohamed A. El-Erian

    The world is going through a period of accelerating change, as four secular developments illustrate. Firms and governments must make timely adjustments, not only to their business models and operational approaches, but also to both their tactical and strategic mindsets.

    12

Edit Newsletter Preferences