Sunday, January 17, 2010

What Happens To Polar Bears As Arctic Ice Shrinks?

Or, more importantly, what happens to us?

From NPR:

Anderson, former editor-in-chief of New Scientist magazine, says at the rate the sea ice is melting, by the summer of 2050, the Arctic will be a mostly open ocean.

"The polar bear is the king of the Arctic, the top predator. It'll be gone," Anderson tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "A killer whale living in open water will be the symbol of the Arctic, replacing a bear on ice. And that's an astonishing change.”

Anderson says as the ice melts, it will take several forms of "revenge" on those living south of the Arctic.

"Once the tundra that rims the Arctic starts to thaw, what we'll see is greenhouse gases pouring out of that tundra," Anderson says. Those gases include methane and carbon dioxide, and they'll contribute to climate change, he says.

Another problem: rising sea levels. As the ice cap sitting on top of Greenland melts, it pours into the sea. Anderson says if the entire cap melts, sea levels worldwide will rise by 20 feet or more.

here to read or listen to the rest.

The article goes on to observe that the Greenland ice will take much longer to melt than Arctic ice, but the net effect would necessarily be the slow destruction of all developed coastal areas. You know, like New York City. Or, for that matter, New Orleans, where I live now, or Houston, where I grew up.

But the bottom line, for me anyway, is that this is just another story. That is, we're literally watching the Arctic thaw while we continue to have the same argument about global warming that we've been having for the last twenty years. There is no sense of urgency, at least, not from the elite class who own and run the country. Yeah, the polar bears are going, so sad. Just another story. It's becoming increasingly clear that our "democratic" system is simply incapable of doing anything about this.

So it'll be hundreds of years before the Greenland icecap totally melts, raising the sea by twenty feet. But things'll be way fucked well before then, fucked in ways we don't even understand yet. It's not simply about polar bears losing their habitat: it's about the catastrophic breakdown of the global eco-system. Make no mistake. By mid century, the way we live our lives, those of us connected well enough to survive, at least, will be unalterably changed for the worse. And nobody with the power to do anything about it gives a fuck.

Why pursue a career? Why have children? Why do anything at all? Nothing matters anymore. It's all going to end, and soon. How should one behave on the eve of destruction? I have no idea.