We all remember the TV commercials of the polar bear walking around the melting ice or being stranded on a small ice chunk surrounded by water. Unfortunately this problem has not gone away despite the lack of news about it on the media. Because of the increase of ice melting, the land is getting warmer and drier resulting in wildfires. Temperatures are rising twice as fast than anywhere else. Ice typically reflects heat and the old ice in the Arctic is more resistant to the sun; but the more ice that melts the more open ocean, which absorbs the sunlight causing temperatures to further rise accelerating the melting of the ice. We have lost 95% of our old ice in the Arctic over the past 33 years. The Arctic's old ice has been around for millions of years, but has only been monitored since the 1980's by NASA. This crisis is known as the Arctic Amplification.
This June, wildfires in the Arctic released record breaking carbon emissions higher than any other fires recorded in the past two decades. These fires released 59 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is greater than what Norway, a country that produces oil emits in a whole year. The rate of the fires and the melting ice is impacting weather conditions around the world. The Arctic is like the refrigerator of the world, keeping temperatures and weather consistent, without it we will see a dramatic global change in weather.
The Bering Sea lost an ice chunk the size of Idaho this year. As the ice continues to melt and fires continue to burn the Arctic's permafrost, or frozen ground containing decomposition of vegetation and animals, is at risk of thawing and releasing methane, which is more toxic than carbon dioxide. This will also put our current marine life at risk exposing them to new species of algae that could potentially harm and poison them. Which in effect will harm the people who live in the Arctic and surrounding area who depend on the fish to eat.
People near the Arctic are already suffering from the extreme weather changes. On June 20th, 2020 a town in Siberia reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature in Siberia in June is only 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This results in wildfires, floods, devastated ecosystems which directly impacts their way of living. On May 29th this year one of the biggest oil spills in Russian history leaked over 20,000 tons of diesel into the Ambarnaya River, which will flow into the Arctic ocean also effecting the ecosystems. Reindeer populations have been cut in half in Russia in just the past 20 years, putting them at risk.
More and more studies are also finding that the Arctic has higher concentrations of micropastics than any other ocean. These tiny plastics are not just being found in marine life but also in pieces of ice. Cigarette filters, bottle caps, and other types of packaging material are a few pieces of plastic that has been able to be identified.
Countries who are apart of the Paris Agreement (Trump withdrew the US) are coming together to come up with solutions to slow the melting and stop the burning. We need quick actions and full support from all countries and their people to help save these crucial parts of the world.
What can you do? Keep talking, keep sharing, keep informing yourself and others on these issues and make it a priority that the US becomes more involved. We are in the middle of an election now, with the presidential election happening this Fall. Writing and speaking up to local representatives can help, speaking up to make changes at your workplace helps. Voting for people who BELIEVE in climate change helps. Anything and everything you can do can make a difference. We are seeing now that continuous activism and protesting is heard, and changes can be made.