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Study warns growing threat could drastically alter Arctic in decade to come: 'This would transform the Arctic into a completely different environment'

These changes would directly impact people living on coasts.

These changes would directly impact people living on coasts.

Photo Credit: iStock

Scientists warn that the Arctic Ocean may soon feature summers practically devoid of sea ice because of rising global temperatures.

What happened?

A new study suggests ice-free summers in the Arctic could start occurring as early as 2035, as reported by The Guardian. The findings, published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, push up previous projections for the first ice-free day in the Arctic by more than a decade.

According to the scientists, ice-free Septembers could start regularly occurring between 2035 and 2067, but the exact date will depend on humanity's reduction of planet-warming pollution.

By the end of the century, ice-free conditions could persist from May to January under a high-emission scenario or from August to October in a low-emission scenario. 

Why is the study concerning?

"This would transform the Arctic into a completely different environment, from a white summer Arctic to a blue Arctic," lead author Alexandra Jahn told The Guardian. "So even if ice-free conditions are unavoidable, we still need to keep our emissions as low as possible to avoid prolonged ice-free conditions."

These changes would directly impact people living on coasts, according to the publication, which explains that sea ice lessens the effects of ocean waves. The loss of this ice would result in bigger and stronger waves in coastal areas, leading to more erosion.

It would also impact Arctic wildlife such as polar bears, seals, and walruses. Already, polar bears are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, primarily because of the way changing global temperatures have impacted their environment. 

Less ice in the Arctic is just one manifestation of a warming world. Other effects include more frequent and stronger storms such as hurricanes and atmospheric rivers as well as longer and more powerful heat waves and droughts. 

While natural disasters have always occurred, scientists agree that the human-induced overheating of our planet supercharges our weather, making extreme events even more intense and putting more people in danger.

What's being done about melting Arctic ice?

According to Jahn, even if we melt all Arctic sea ice, there is still hope. If we can take enough carbon out of the atmosphere, that ice theoretically would come back within a decade.

To that end, a number of scientists are working on innovative ways to remove carbon from the air and even the sea. 

For instance, one team is working on a way to use chemistry to capture and store ocean carbon. Another group of researchers at The Ohio State University is combining direct air carbon dioxide capture technologies with geothermal energy. They say their method could help create large-scale carbon dioxide capture and storage systems in the future.

You can do your part by voting for environmentally minded politicians and lobbying elected officials to enact climate-forward policies. You can also make an impact by changing the way you get around. Opting for public transit, biking, and walking reduces planet-warming pollution.

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