The Irish Times view on melting sea ice: running out of time

The scientific view that it’s not too late to make significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions is somewhat reassuring

 

The Summer of 2018 will go down as one when extreme weather, in the form of exceptional heatwaves, enveloped the northern hemisphere. It was also notable because scientists changed from their usual position on such events. Instead of declaring they may fall into the category of normal weather patterns and over time it may be confirmed they are due to human-induced global warming, their verdict was clear: the signal of climate change was “unambiguous”.

“The logic that climate change will do this is inescapable – the world is becoming warmer, and so heatwaves like this are becoming more common,” said Friederike Otto of the University of Oxford. Extreme heatwaves and wildfires wreaking havoc across the globe were “the face of climate change” with impacts on the Earth “playing out in real time”, added US climate scientist Prof Michael Mann

Confirmation this week that the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up, opening waters north of Greenland that are normally frozen, is further indication that current climate conditions are unprecedented.

This phenomenon has occurred twice this year due to warm winds and the climate change-driven heatwave in the northern hemisphere coinciding with an extraordinary stalling of the North Atlantic jet stream. It was assumed the sea off the north coast of Greenland would be the final northern holdout against melting effects of a hotter planet.

For Ireland increasingly frequent heatwaves, droughts and flooding – exacerbated by rising sea levels due to melting polar ice – are inevitable.

The scientific view that it’s not too late to make significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly since the effects progressively worsen as global warming increases, is somewhat reassuring. And in Ireland’s case, it’s where most work needs to be done – to reduce its rising carbon emissions urgently in key sectors and make its contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change.

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