Report Released at COP27 Gives a ‘Terminal Diagnosis’ for Summer Sea Ice

Report Released at COP27 Gives a ‘Terminal Diagnosis’ for Summer Sea Ice

On November 7, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative launched its annual State of the Cryosphere Report on the worldwide local weather assembly, COP27, in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt. This report presents troubling information of current and projected impacts on the world’s ice⁠—which is of nice significance to human society and ecosystems⁠—however presents hope that future harms will be restricted by speedy and sharp reductions in greenhouse fuel emissions.

Last yr at COP26, the first-ever State of the Cryosphere Report relayed the quite a few threats that growing emissions pose to the cryosphere, together with what it termed “unstoppable charges of world sea-level rise.” Unfortunately, this yr’s State of the Cryosphere Report has much more dire information, as mirrored in its title, “Growing Losses, Global Impacts.” The report tasks that complete lack of Arctic summer time sea ice in some years is now “inevitable.” And the arrival of this unprecedented situation just isn’t distant⁠—even with very low emissions, years the place all the Arctic’s summer time sea ice disappears are prone to happen earlier than 2050.

charts showing decline in sea ice under different emissions scenarios

Projections of the September sea ice space primarily based on completely different emissions discount eventualities by way of 2100. Credit: State of the Cryosphere 2022 Report

This “terminal analysis” of future occasions is coupled with extra irreversible impacts on different parts of the cryosphere which have already been noticed previously yr. These embrace the primary recorded methane launch as a result of world warming from a permafrost web site, the first-ever September spike in Greenland floor soften, over 5% glacier ice loss this summer time within the Alps, and rising ocean acidification marked by shell harm within the Arctic.

The shrinking cryosphere could have implications principally for areas removed from the poles, particularly in coastal areas and communities far downstream of glaciers. These impacts can embrace sea degree rise, elevated danger of flooding, decrease water provide, and complete glacier loss exterior the polar area. As detailed in final yr’s State of the Cryosphere Report, a few of these impacts — such because the potential collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet — can be “devastating.” GlacierHub editor Ben Orlove⁠—an writer of the brand new report, the co-director of the MA Program in Climate and Society on the Columbia Climate School, and a professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs—said that “new analysis confirms that glacier retreat is considerably exacerbating flood danger throughout densely populated areas, with explicit severity in Asia.”

map showing areas that would flood with rising seas

Areas of Bangladesh that will develop into flooded if the ocean degree rises three meters. Credit: Climate Central

At the Cryosphere Pavilion at COP27, this “terminal analysis” and different impacts on the cryosphere had been commemorated by the toppling of a totem representing the Earth’s snow and ice areas. A ceremony recognizing the “toppled totem” was held instantly after with the participation of Arctic Youth, Indigenous individuals, and sea ice consultants. Although the ceremony was somber in recognition that, because the report states,  “we can’t forestall the longer term lack of this key cryosphere dynamic,” it emphasised the significance of emissions reductions following the 1.5°C restrict established within the 2015 Paris Agreement to keep away from much more extreme cryospheric harm.

Orlove said that “although it has been identified for years that glaciers on each continent had been shrinking, the tempo of glacier retreat in 2022 was nonetheless astonishing, with unprecedented ranges of glacier soften within the Alps and the Pyrenees, resulting in instances of glacier collapse and extreme exosystem loss.”

Despite these losses, Orlove stays cautiously optimistic. “New work that integrates subject observations and fashions demonstrates that we nonetheless have time to protect many glaciers if we transition within the very close to future to low emission eventualities,” he mentioned.

In this fashion, the cryosphere joins many different areas of the world⁠—tropical forests, coral reefs, coastal zones, and agricultural and forest lands across the planet⁠—calling for pressing speedy reductions in emissions.