Mar 6, 2017

Arctic Sea Ice May Melt Away Even If We Meet Paris Climate Goals

Arctic
by
Seeker via AFP
Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler, Getty
Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler, Getty

First the good news: summer ice cover is "virtually certain" to survive if average global warming does not rise more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial era levels, according to a statistical review published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

"We estimate there is less than a 1-in-100,000 chance of an ice-free Arctic if global warming stays below 1.5 C," James Screen and Daniel Williamson from the University of Exeter wrote.

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But the bad news is that even if scientists are confident a 1.5 C ceiling will, in theory, preserve Arctic ice, they are far less sure this goal can be achieved.

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Sea ice today covers about 14 million square kilometers at its winter maximum, and five million at its summer minimum.

Without deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the Arctic could see its first ice-free summers within two or three decades.

So far, the Arctic's surface temperature has gone up by more than 2 C — twice the global average.