This guest blog was written by Jay Manning. Mr. Manning is a Partner at Cascadia Law Group, an environmental firm in Washington state. He was formerly the Director of Washington’s Department of Ecology and Governor Christine Gregoire’s Chief of Staff.
A funny thing happened at a meeting this week in Marrakech. Countries from around the world are meeting to decide how they will implement the landmark Paris Climate Agreement. In December last year, 195 countries agreed to aggressive targets to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and limit global warming. As the COP22 meeting began, our country, which has been a crucial player and leader in the fight against climate change, elected Donald J. Trump as President.
While U.S. elections are always followed with interest from other countries, Marrakech COP22 attendees struggled this week to understand what happened with regard to the U.S. election and what it means for global efforts to tackle the already formidable challenge to reduce emissions, transition to a clean energy economy and maintain the health of our ocean and marine life. The president-elect has said that global warming is a hoax, has promised to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, and has appointed a climate change skeptic to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition team. But despite these worrying signs, a true rainbow coalition of attendees from every corner of the planet quickly rallied and moved to a mindset of determination to unite, move forward and make progress.
The graph above shows Arctic sea ice extent as of September 17, 2012, along with daily ice extent data for 2007 and 2005, the previous record low years. 2012 is shown in blue and 2007 in green. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Credit: National Snow and Ice Dara Center, Boulder CO
The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) recently made a preliminary announcement that Arctic sea ice on September 16 had melted to about 1.32 million square miles, or just 24 percent of the surface of the Arctic Ocean. This is the lowest seasonal ice coverage since satellite measurements began in 1979. Although ice should start building back up now as the Arctic heads into winter, any newly formed sea ice will be relatively thin and more prone to melting in the coming summer. The Arctic is our planet’s air conditioner, and it plays a key role in regulating global climate. Its cold air and water help drive atmospheric and ocean currents that regulate temperatures worldwide.
NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve said, “Recent climate models suggest that ice-free conditions may happen before 2050, though the observed rate of decline remains faster than many of the models are able to capture.” This means the actual melting of sea ice is happening faster than what recent climate models predict and an ice-free Arctic could happen even sooner.