Where do you see yourself in four years? Running that hydroponic rooftop garden you've always talked about? Touring the country with Galactic as their Official Power Crystal Handler? Finally getting around to varnishing that old wardrobe you got at that overpriced estate sale? WRONG: we'll all be awash in the corpses of glaciers and drawing straws for a spot in the air-conditioned limestone caves that will repopulate The New Civilization. According to a scholar who has studied Arctic sea ice for years, all of the cooling, life-sustaining ice will be gone in four years.
Initially the scientist, Cambridge University professor Peter Wadhams, believed that we had more time to correct the onslaught of global warming and prevent the ice from completely melting like a frog's skin in a pot of boiling water, until he saw a report that the ice had melted even faster than expected this summer. "The summer ice limits slowly shrank back, at a rate which suggested that the ice would last another 50 years or so," Wadhams told the Guardian. "But in the end the summer melt overtook the winter growth such that the entire ice sheet melts or breaks up during the summer months."
Wadhams explains why the ice matters:
As the sea ice retreats in summer the ocean warms up (to 7C in 2011) and this warms the seabed too. The continental shelves of the Arctic are composed of offshore permafrost, frozen sediment left over from the last ice age. As the water warms the permafrost melts and releases huge quantities of trapped methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas so this will give a big boost to global warming.
Sure, but won't all that extra water give us more space to dock our yachts? What's the upside, doc?
The positives are increased possibility of Arctic transport, increased access to Arctic offshore oil and gas resources. The main negative is an acceleration of global warming.
But think of how many Arctic vacations we would take! Besides, seeding the ocean with minerals to absorb more carbon dioxide or whitening the clouds to reflect more light sounds like hard work. But here's a nice thought: The Wall Street Journal will outlast Arctic ice.