For several years now, scientists have been painfully aware that the Earth's ice caps are rapidly melting, but little did they know how soon it would actually happen. After a recent excursion to the Arctic, researchers made a seriously shocking — and truly devastating — discovery regarding just how quickly the Arctic's ice is melting.
"If we keep going as we are then the Arctic will be ice-free in summer within a few decades and the world I just described will no longer exist," said expedition leader Markus Rex. "This world is threatened. We really saw how the ice is disappearing."
The Arctic's floating ice coverage per square mile has decreased by 13 percent over the last decade.
During a year-long expedition called MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) aboard a German vessel called the Polarstern, scientists from 20 countries conducted extensive research regarding climate change, as they were carried by the wind and the natural ice drift, according to NBC. At one point, the vessel spent several weeks just outside of the North Pole, and their findings were ground-breaking.
According to BBC, researchers found that summer 2020 left Planet Earth with only 1.44 million square miles of floating ice, which is the second-lowest square mile coverage it has had since 2012. The Arctic also showed a 13 percent decrease of ice per decade altogether, which means that during the summertime in a few decades to come, the ice should be completely gone, because it's disappearing so quickly.
"This reflects the warming of the Arctic," said Rex. "The ice is disappearing and if in a few decades we have an ice-free Arctic — this will have a major impact on the climate around the world."
"We were able to witness how the ice disappears and in areas where there should have been ice that was many meters thick, and even at the North Pole — that ice was gone," he said.
What is causing the Arctic's ice to melt? What will happen if it does?
The Arctic is effectively melting due to global warming, which is caused by massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere and trap the sun's heat in the atmosphere, warming the global temperature. Humans are largely responsible for our planet's greenhouse gas emissions, from electricity production, industrial production, agriculture, land use, and forestry.
This climate crisis plaguing our planet is why politicians such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have proposed the Green New Deal, to take a stand against global warming, and to make some massive changes regarding our greenhouse gas emissions as a country. By lowering our output, we can hopefully prevent temperatures from continuing to rise, and ultimately, the ice caps from melting.
If the Arctic ice does — in fact — melt completely, planet Earth in serious danger of overheating, because the Arctic's ice protects our planet, and keeps the air cool, according to World Wildlife Fund. Additionally, if the ice caps and glaciers melt entirely, we risk a global flood. That being said, it's vital that we do everything we can to protect our planet and its ice caps.
Global warming is certainly taking a massive toll on the Arctic, and it may completely change our lives within a few years. Hopefully, this next presidential election will result in some major changes in favor of stopping the climate crisis.