Arctic Sea Ice: new record low is set in 2012

Posted by Clemence Lerondeau — 28 August 2012 at 12:17pm - Comments
Greenpeace activists in inflatables are sprayed with hoses by Gazprom workers
All rights reserved. Credit: Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace
Greenpeace activists in inflatables are sprayed with hoses by Gazprom workers

In the Greenpeace office, staff have developed a bad habit. We take our seats, switch our computers on and click on the bookmark to the National Snow and Ice Data Center website. Yesterday was like any other day, except that today the extent of sea ice melt surpassed that of 2007, the lowest year on record. The plummeting line on this seemingly innocuous graph shows that the Arctic has already lost more ice than ever before in recorded history - and it’s still melting. Across the office it was met with a sharp intake of breath.

Just 30 years ago, the Arctic Ocean ice cap covered an area roughly the size of Australia. Within a few decades, it will almost certainly disappear completely in the summer months.

Back in June when we launched the Save the Arctic campaign, Paul McCartney was one of our first signees to the Arctic scroll which has since gathered nearly 1.5m signatures. In his blog, he spoke of the first time the Earth was seen from space and how that image, of our beautiful Earth rising, inspired a generation and in part sparked the environmental movement across the world.

Without the ice at the top of the world, Earth will look radically different from space – utterly changed from the first photographs we took of our home planet just four decades ago. Our movement must change gear radically in response.

In a sense, the Arctic is where Greenpeace was born. Just over 40 years ago, eleven activists committed to peaceful protest sailed a boat to the Alaskan Arctic to stop nuclear testing. Their struggle was long and hard. But over the years the movement grew and finally, against all the odds, the campaign was a success.

But now we face perhaps our biggest challenge ever.

As The Economist recently said:

“Perhaps not since the felling of America’s vast forests in the 19th century, or possibly since the razing of China’s and western Europe’s great forests a thousand years before that, has the world seen such a spectacular environmental change. The consequences for the Arctic ecosystems will be swingeing.”

From the narwhal to the walrus to the polar bear, the Arctic is home to some of the most incredible animals on the planet. For hundreds of other migratory species, including humpback whales, it is a vital summer feeding ground. Millions of people live in the Arctic too, including indigenous peoples whose ancestors first settled thousands of years ago. All this is under threat.

I wonder what expression Peter Voser, the CEO of Shell, is wearing today? Could it possibly be one of hungry anticipation? In a tragically ironic twist, as the ice recedes, energy companies like Shell are scrambling to claim the oil that lies beneath the seabed. So they can make more money. By burning more oil. And melting more ice. It’s a vicious circle driven by greed.

The exploration being planned for the Arctic is not inevitable. Like climate change it is not an impersonal force of nature. It is man-made. And it has a cause: burning fossil fuels. And it has an instigator, companies like Shell and Gazprom. And it can be stopped and replaced by investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

We want to convince the UN to create a global sanctuary in the High Arctic and make the Arctic Ocean off limits to the oil industry and unsustainable fishing. But we cannot do this alone; we need everyone who cares about the Arctic behind us. We have developed a plan that can make this a reality if millions of people join us to demand Arctic protection.

We’ve done it before. Just over 20 years ago, Antarctica was facing similar threats. Greenpeace led the campaign to turn the area into a global sanctuary. We won that campaign. And now we’re determined to save the Arctic.

It is one of our most ambitious campaigns to date but it can only be won if people and organisations globally join the movementEveryone needs to grab this historic moment and reclaim the earth that belongs to everyone, animals and humans alike.

Hi all

The real problem with this is: what on Earth can we do about it? The removal of Arctic Ice, which now looks like it will have gone in the summer by the end of this decade, is a significant sign of having passed a tipping point. There are many feedback mechanisms which will kick in once it has melted, which will accelerate warming in the Arctic, and rapidly increase catastrophic droughts and deluges in the Northern hemisphere. We cannot reverse that in a generation. So tell us what to do! Right now the USA is about to vote in another group of irresponsible politicians -- how can we communicate the urgency of these problems? Incessant meetings and research initiatives really do not cut the mustard ... how can we get radical enough to make changes before an even more dramatic and catastrophic tipping point is passed? How do you communcate to  populations that are kept ignorant by news driven by big corporations? Do you have the answer, Greenpeace?

I think part of the point of this blog, Nick Brown, is that this is a problem requiring EVERYONE to take action. It's no good sitting back and waiting for Greenpeace (a tiny minority in the grand scheme of things) to fix everything.

Only when people rise up in large numbers,do  policy makers listen.

Greenpeace do everything they can, but they don't claim to hold all the answers! They run on people power and they need as much people power as they can get to make that difference.

When you say incessant meetings and research do not cut the mustard - how can a group of individuals like Greenpeace make any kind of bold statement (such as attaching themselves to oil platforms) without knowing what they are talking about? To retain credibility they have to hold all the facts and explore every avenue of lobbying before large, expensive and risky actions can be seen as worthwhile.


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Pete just played it to me!! absolutely smashing!! well done Imogen sounds like you've recruited a few extras.

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Nice post, good to know that this Sea Ice topic is being covered also in this web site.
Thanks for taking time to discuss this, keep up with this interesting work.
Good job !


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