Image courtesy of ashfay via flickr
How low will they go? Putting a date on the melting of the Arctic ice cap has been a popular prediction game among scientists of late; in recent months, we've heard estimates ranging from 2030 to as early as 2013. The latest salvo comes courtesy of Xinhua, which reports that Olav Orheim, the head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, is placing his money on this summer. Noting that its ice sheet had reached a historical low of 3m sq. km last summer - it covered around 7.5m sq. km as recently as 2000 - Orheim told Xinhua that "if Norway's average temperature this year equals that in 2007, the ice cap in the Arctic will all melt away."
Barring this disaster, Orheim predicted that excess carbon dioxide emissions and higher average temperatures would unpredictably alter the region's fragile ecosystems. On a separate note, he said that Asia would likely be hardest hit by rising sea levels, estimating that a one meter rise would affect "nearly 100 million people on an area of 800,000 square km in Asia and direct economic loss will amount to 400 billion U.S. dollars."
He urged developed nations to take the lead in significantly reducing GHG emissions and in crafting a post-Kyoto Protocol climate treaty framework. While his prediction may seem a bit outlandish, there's no denying it may very well come to pass; after all, it wasn't too long ago that climate scientists were confidently asserting that the Arctic ice cap wouldn't be melting until at least the second half of the century. If there's one thing scientists have learned over the past few years, it is that the effects of climate change are too variable and convoluted to make accurate predictions.
Via ::Xinhua: Expert: Arctic polar cap may disappear this summer (news website)