Home / news / Losing remaining Arctic sea ice would be equivalent to adding one trillion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, on top of the 2.4 trillion tons emitted since the Industrial Age

Losing remaining Arctic sea ice would be equivalent to adding one trillion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, on top of the 2.4 trillion tons emitted since the Industrial Age

Dropping remaining Arctic sea ice could be equal to including one trillion tons of CO2 to the environment, on prime of the two.four trillion tons emitted for the reason that Industrial Age

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27 comments

  1. It just feels more hopeless with every article.

  2. # What is the Aerosol Masking Effect?

    We’ve landed ourselves in a situation of harrowing irony where our emissions have both risen CO2 and bought us time in the process. This is because dirty coal produces sulfates which cloud the atmosphere and act as a sunscreen. This sunscreen has prevented the level of warming we **should** have seen by now, but have avoided (kinda, keep reading). [Here’s good example of this on a smaller scale:]( https://www.technologyreview.com/s/610007/were-about-to-kill-a-massive-accidental-experiment-in-halting-global-warming/)
    >In effect, the shipping industry has been carrying out an unintentional experiment in climate engineering for more than a century. Global mean temperatures could be as much as 0.25 ˚C lower than they would otherwise have been, based on the mean “forcing effect”

    * Much has been done in the way of researching the extent of this effect. Currently it is understood that [Anthropogenic aerosols have already brought about a decrease of ∼2.53 K, Experiments based on the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 given in IPCC AR5 shows the dramatic decrease in three anthropogenic aerosols in 2100 will lead to an increase of ∼2.06 K]( https://rmets.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/joc.4613)

    That’s not to say that we have **truly** avoided this warming. We simply “kick the can” down the road with these emissions. The warming is still there waiting, until the moment we no longer emit these sulfates.

    * [Just 35% reduction in industrial output(emissions) would lead to 1C temperature rise](https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jgrd.50192). Depending on which scientist you ask, it could be as little as a week, or it could be up to 6 weeks. Regardless though, the warming is still there on the horizon.

    * Worse though, [It’s been recently discovered this effect is actually more potent than we previously had estimated](https://m.phys.org/news/2019-01-cooling-effect-aerosols-cumulus-msc.html?fbclid=IwAR1AyPkeQ2JlWu5bs1r6uwGlBrOciNWlJ9t57XMQ3KlGMQBun7JPLfh2r-g), by twice as much. Life on Earth cannot adapt to abrupt warming like this.

    # The Arctic: Earth’s Refrigerator

    The ice in the Arctic is the heart of stability for our planet. If the ice goes, life on Earth goes. The anomalous weather we have experienced more notably in recent years is a direct consequence of warming in the Arctic and the loss of ice occurring there. **Arctic ice and the Aerosol Masking Effect are the two key “sunscreens” protecting us from warming.**

    * Loss of this ice (which will likely occur next year) [will result in 1˚C warming](https://www.pnas.org/content/111/9/3322). On top of our 1.75˚C current warming above pre-industrial, and on top of the 2˚C+ rise when we can no longer keep up the Aerosol “sunscreen”.
    * [Only 2C temperatures are needed to exponentially increase likelihood of ice free summers](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0127-8.epdf?referrer_access_token=8oMBjRrFiX64Z1Haei6z3tRgN0jAjWel9jnR3ZoTv0NRyZNTJX4vdDMHJ4-rPouf-Sdg3u4otuwTt1cOuayIj_x06Bw2-9DHnjuBzuPpd79MF7QfGGRaqRHyVC-1ba8kkfj1zHLW-71cFmlnipiab_WK4D8DyjEYD-qvye07IGDAbFWOhkTtnfg5SjmK51p0WvZgTR40c81IApKz1J9tYvQsgTiOkdUh0LqKFv64L3zLFJ1j_qJRSgM8ryq7olwZ&tracking_referrer=mashable.com)

    * [The Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge says IPCC grossly underestimates blue ocean event frequency and timeline](https://streamable.com/s7mvo)

    #The Methane Feedback Problem

    Methane is a greenhouse gas like Carbon. When it enters the atmosphere, it has capability to trap heat just like carbon, only it is much, much better at doing so. It can not only trap *more* heat, but it does so much quicker. Over a 20-year period, it traps 84 times more heat per mass unit than carbon dioxide, as [noted here](https://science.sciencemag.org/content/326/5953/716).
    * It is a natural gas that arises from dead stuff. Normally, it has time to “process” so that as it decays, something comes along and eats that methane. In this natural cycle, none of that methane is created in amounts that could enter the atmosphere.

    * **The problem is in the permafrost and Arctic sea ice.** Millions of lifeforms were killed in a “snap” die off and frozen in time in these cold places, never to be available for life to eat up the methane. This shouldn’t be problematic because these areas insulate themselves and remain cold. Their emissions should occur at such a slow rate that organisms could feed on the methane before it escapes. **Instead, these areas are warming so fast that massive amounts of this methane is venting out into our atmosphere.**

    It’s known as a positive feedback loop. The Arctic warms > in permafrost microbes in the sediment of the permafrost and beneath the ice become excited, knocking the methane free > the Arctic warms even more > rinse and repeat.

    * This is an alarming issue because the less ice and permafrost that there is, the more “open doors” there are for immense amounts of this methane to be released. **In our Atmosphere, there are roughly 4 gigatonnes of methane, in the Eastern Siberian Arctic shelf alone, there are 1500+ Gt.** The referee journal literature noted years ago that a 50 burst Gt of predicted amount of hydrate storage is [highly possible for abrupt release at any time and would cause ∼12-times increase of modern atmospheric methane burden with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming](https://www.cosis.net/abstracts/EGU2008/01526/EGU2008-A-01526.pdf).

    #Limits to Adaptation

    All of the above mechanisms bring about their own warming sources, and it may be hard to conceptualize what that would mean, but the web of life is quite literally interwoven, and each species is dependent on another to survive. Life can adapt far, but there are points at which a species can no longer adapt, temperatures being the greatest hurdle. When it is too hot, the body begins to “cook” internally. A species is only as resilient as a lesser species it relies upon.

    This is noted in a recent-ish paper [“Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change”](https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-35068-1) from Giovanni Strona & Corey J. A. Bradshaw:

    >Despite their remarkable resistance to environmental change slowing their decline, **our tardigrade-like species still could not survive co-extinctions.** In fact, the transition from the state of complete tardigrade persistence to their complete extinction (in the co-extinction scenario) was **abrupt, and happened far from their tolerance limits, and close to global diversity collapse (around 5 °C of heating or cooling**; Fig. 1). This suggests that environmental change could promote simultaneous collapses in trophic guilds when they reach critical thresholds of environmental change. When these critical environmental conditions are breached, **even the most resilient organisms are still susceptible to rapid extinction because they depend, in part, on the presence of and interactions among many other species.**

    It would be unrealistic to expect life on Earth to be able to keep up, as seen in [Rates of Projected Climate Change](https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ele.12144):

    >Our results are striking: matching projected changes for 2100 would require rates of niche evolution that are **>10,000 times faster than rates typically observed among species, for most variables and clades.** Despite many caveats, our results suggest that adaptation to projected changes in the next 100 years **would require rates that are largely unprecedented based on observed rates** among vertebrate species.

    # Going Forward

    What this culminates to is a clear disconnect in what is understood in the literature and what is being described as a timeline by various sources. These feedbacks have been established for a decade or more and are ignored in IPCC (among others’) timelines and models.

    How can one assume we can continue on this path until 2030,2050,2100? How could this possibly be?

    **We need to act *now* or humans and the global ecosystem alike will suffer for it.**

  3. People fantasize about killing Hitler to save millions of lives. What about the leader of Brazil? If he disappeared right now the deforestation in the Amazon would slow. Millions of lives could be spared over time.

  4. > Fast mitigation may still avoid complete loss of sea ice

    So, let’s mitigate quickly.

    The consensus among [scientists](http://bush.tamu.edu/istpp/scholarship/journals/ClimateScientistsPerspectives_ClimaticChange.pdf) and [economists](http://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf) on [carbon pricing](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_price)^§ to mitigate climate change is similar to [the consensus among climatologists](http://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/) that human activity is responsible for global warming. Putting the price [upstream](https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323611604578396401965799658) where the fossil fuels enter the market makes it simple, easily enforceable, and bureaucratically lean. Returning the revenue as an equitable dividend [offsets any regressive effects of the tax](http://www.nber.org/papers/w9152.pdf) (in fact, [~60% of the public would receive more in dividend than they paid in tax](http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0081648#s7)) and allows for a higher carbon price (which [is what matters for climate mitigation](https://www.worldscientific.com/doi/pdf/10.1142/S201000781840002X)) because [the public isn’t willing to pay anywhere near what’s needed otherwise](http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/Is-the-Public-Willing-to-Pay-to-Help-Fix-Climate-Change-.aspx). Enacting a [border tax](http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2026879) would protect domestic businesses from foreign producers not saddled with similar pollution taxes, and also [incentivize those countries](http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/handle/205761) to enact their own.

    [Conservative estimates](http://rdcu.be/cLYO) are that failing to mitigate climate change will cost us 10% of GDP over 50 years, [starting about now](http://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf). In contrast, carbon taxes may actually *boost* GDP, if the revenue is [returned as an equitable dividend to households](http://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2014/jun/13/how-revenue-neutral-carbon-tax-creates-jobs-grows-economy) (the [poor tend to spend money when they’ve got it](http://www.econ2.jhu.edu/people/ccarroll/papers/cstwMPC.pdf), which [boosts economic growth](https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/sdn/2015/sdn1513.pdf)).

    Taxing carbon [is in each nation’s own best interest](http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2015/wp15105.pdf), and [many nations have already started](https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/29687/9781464812927.pdf?sequence=5&isAllowed=y), which [can have knock-on effects in other countries](http://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf). In poor countries, [taxing carbon is progressive even *before* considering smart revenue uses, because only the “rich” can afford fossil fuels](https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers.pdf) in the first place. We [won’t wean ourselves off fossil fuels without a carbon tax](http://news.mit.edu/2016/carbon-tax-stop-using-fossil-fuels-0224), the [longer we wait to take action the more expensive it will be](http://rdcu.be/cZjG). Each year we delay costs [~$900 billion](https://cla.umn.edu/heller-hurwicz/news-events/news/policy-brief-calibrating-price-climate-risk).

    [It’s the smart thing to do](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0095069698910580), and the IPCC report made clear [pricing carbon is **necessary** if we want to meet our 1.5 ºC target](https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2018/12/SR15_TS_High_Res.pdf).

    Contrary to [popular belief](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluralistic_ignorance#Examples) the main barrier isn’t lack of public support. But [we can’t keep hoping others will solve this problem for us](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_responsibility). *[We](https://i.redd.it/tomv8cnadxa11.jpg)* need to take the necessary steps to make this dream a reality:

    [**Lobby**](https://citizensclimatelobby.org/join-citizens-climate-lobby/?tfa_3590416195188=reddit-CarbonTax&utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=CarbonTax) for the change we need. [Lobbying works](https://sociology.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/publications/friends_or_foes-how_social_movement_allies_affect_the_passage_of_legislation_in_the_u._s._congress.pdf), and you [don’t need a lot of money to be effective](https://www.jstor.org/stable/41759323?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents) (though it does help to [educate yourself on effective tactics](http://www.congressfoundation.org/storage/documents/CMF_Pubs/cmf-citizen-centric-advocacy.pdf)). If you’re too busy to go through the [free training](https://citizensclimatelobby.org/new-member/#climateadvocatetraining), sign up for [text alerts](https://citizensclimatelobby.org/text/) to join coordinated call-in days ([it works](http://www.congressfoundation.org/storage/documents/CMF_Pubs/cmf-citizen-centric-advocacy.pdf)) or set yourself a monthly reminder to [write a letter](https://www.ted.com/talks/omar_ahmad_political_change_with_pen_and_paper?language=en) to your elected officials. According to NASA climatologist and climate activist [Dr. James Hansen](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hansen), becoming an [active volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby](https://citizensclimatelobby.org/join-citizens-climate-lobby/?tfa_3590416195188=reddit-CarbonTax&utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=CarbonTax) is [the most important thing you can do for climate change](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4DAW1A6Ca8), and [climatologist Dr. Michael Mann](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_E._Mann) calls its [Carbon Fee & Dividend](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_fee_and_dividend) policy [an example of sort of visionary policy that’s needed](https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/06/03/climate-change-requires-collective-action-more-than-single-acts-column/1275965001/).

    § The IPCC (AR5, WGIII) [Summary for Policymakers](https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers.pdf) states with “high confidence” that tax-based policies are effective at decoupling GHG emissions from GDP (see p. 28). [Ch. 15](https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_chapter15.pdf) has a more complete discussion. The U.S. [National Academy of Sciences, one of the most respected scientific bodies in the world, has also called for a carbon tax](https://www.nap.edu/download/21712). According to [IMF research](https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/05/how-much-does-world-subsidize-oil-coal-and-gas/589000/), most of the $5.2 trillion in subsidies for fossil fuels come from not taxing carbon as we should. There is general agreement among economists on carbon taxes whether you consider [economists with expertise in climate economics](http://policyintegrity.org/files/publications/ExpertConsensusReport.pdf), [economists with expertise in resource economics](http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.381.484&rep=rep1&type=pdf), or [economists from all sectors](https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Doris_Geide-Stevenson/publication/261884738_Consensus_Among_Economists-An_Update/links/56a7f3fa08ae860e0255a8e3.pdf). It is literally [Econ 101](http://www2.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ101/herriges/Lectures10/Chapter%2017H%20-%20Externalities.pdf). The idea [just won a Nobel Prize](http://environment.yale.edu/news/article/william-nordhaus-wins-nobel-prize-for-economics-of-climate-change/).

  5. I live in Houston and this is one of the reasons that, in my lifetime, I will have to permanently abandon this city as the constant flooding would make it uninhabitable. Cant imagine what central America is gona look like in 60 years

  6. I’ve almost gotten to the point of feeling hopeless about global warming. I have two young children and it seems like we are already at a point of no return, and have absolutely fucked up the planet for them to a devastating degree. So here I am driving my fuel-efficient car, in my well-insulated house powered by renewable energy, reducing my meat consumption. But the Arctic ice is disappearing and the tundra is melting and Europe is on fire and we’re all just in a state of denial, doing things that are minimally helpful so long as they don’t cause us any inconvenience or cost us any real money. How are our kids going to judge us when they get older and understand the degree to which we recognized the problem and yet refused to act?

  7. kind of fucked up to think the only remnants of ancient core ice would be the samples in freezers.

  8. Why did Exxon Mobil allow this to happen?

    Sweet Jesus. Was it worth the money?

    “I’m a billionaire! All it took was destruction of the planet and an extinction event! No biggie.”

  9. Seems like we have to get the GOP out first in the US to make any progress on climate change – 2020 will be important for all humanity

  10. That’s okay. The trapped viruses that melting ice will release will kill us all off way before anything else

  11. It’s time to overthrow capitalism.

  12. So what you’re saying is… we’re boned?

  13. It’s a runaway risk isn’t it ?

  14. No one talks of how the ice is transported to other countries. That is a reason maybe why we don’t have much ice.

  15. Excellent, I don’t think we can take much more hubris.

  16. Mother Nature be like “good riddance”

  17. Paging u/ElonMuskOfficial

    SAVE US.

  18. [Posted on /r/science and got 3 upvotes with their copy/pasta downvoted as well.](https://www.reddit.com/r/science/comments/cimus8/losing_remaining_arctic_sea_ice_would_be/)

  19. Nobody gonna care until it happens. Then the Fox news faithful will bash the scientists for not telling us about it.

    Deny it or not, climate change is coming.

  20. If all ice melts let’s say, and humanity doesn’t drown horribly. Couldn’t we fill the once frozen sea with algae/coral reefs and counter all the added cO2? cuz doesn’t all the algae and coral in the oceans do more heavy lifting than all the trees and plants that are on land? I heard that somewhere I think.

  21. That’s alot of numbers.

  22. There is more ice than ever and no recorded warming for over 20 yrs. Calm down.

  23. and then as usual, the scientists underestimated the effects because they are

  24. *”will be”, not “would be”

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