September 2, 2009

WWF: Arctic Ice Thawing Faster Than Expected

Arctic thawing is likely to result in worldwide consequences - from an increase in greenhouse gases and global weather pattern changes, according to a WWF report on Wednesday.

The World Wildlife Fund released a new study, titled "Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications," Wednesday that found that Arctic ice is shrinking at a much quicker pace than previously expected.

The thawing Arctic is likely to have far-reaching implications that will affect hundreds of millions of people, WWF said.

"This is not about the Arctic, it's what the Arctic means to the rest of the world and this study paints a truly sobering picture of the future if it continues to warm and melt," said Dr. Martin Sommerkorn, senior climate change advisor on the WWF's Arctic Program.

"Warming in the Arctic will have negative consequences not just for polar bears, but for people across America and throughout the world. Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects."

The report found that as sea ice is expected to shrink to near-record levels this month, there are already some visible indications of how the melt will impact the earth's atmosphere.

Additionally, some of the report's findings about global climate change could be more critical than those issued by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

"The planet's alarm system is blaring loudly and we need to wake up and take action," said Keya Chatterjee, acting director of climate change with WWF-US. 

"We need to pass legislation in the U.S. and secure a global treaty to cut our emissions now and prepare for the rapidly emerging consequences of climate change."

According to WWF, the Arctic ice holds twice as much carbon than is currently in the earth's atmosphere. If warming continues at the current rate, these frozen soils will thaw and release dangerous levels of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere at a much faster rate than previously expected.

Additionally, the report said that sea-levels could rise by more than one meter (four feet) by 2100 -- more than twice the amount given in the IPCC's 2007 assessment.

"The associated flooding of coastal regions will affect more than a quarter of the world's population," the WWF said.


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