A recent, extensive study of the northern polar ice caps released by climate expert Professor Peter Wadham, concluded that the Arctic Ocean would be "mostly" ice free in 10 years during the summer months.
This study is a stunning compliment to research done by NASA at the South Pole, which noted that ice sheets have been losing 30 feet a year in thickness since 2003. The research concluded that the rate of melting is accelerating, creating a "runaway effect."
As ice sheets melt, less sun is reflected back into outer space, and is instead absorbed into the ocean -- known as the Albedo Effect -- further accelerating the pace of oceanic warming.
The consequences will be devastating.
The International Institute for Environment and Development has studied the possible effects of rising ocean levels, and concluded that one eighth of the world's urban population would become "climate refugees," creating the largest displacement of people in world history. The most vulnerable countries are China (144 million displaced), India (63 million) and Bangladesh (62 million), while lower on the list are Japan (30 million) and the United States (23 million).
Not only will massive amounts of people become homeless, but the changing climate is expected to create other environmental and social crises internationally. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
In Africa, "between 75 million and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change." And: "access to food, in many African countries and regions is projected to be severely compromised by climate variability and change."
In Latin America: "Changes in precipitation patterns and the disappearance of glaciers are projected to significantly affect water availability for human consumption, agriculture, and energy generation."
The EPA also outlines the negative effects of climate change in Europe, North America, Asia, and the rest of the world. Global warming is truly an international phenomenon requiring the cooperation of the world's people and resources.
In response to the arctic ice melting, the U.S. and Europe have begun cooperating militarily -- under the NATO umbrella. They see the melting ice not as social calamity, but as a corporate-profit opportunity. United Press International (UPI) reported that U.S. Navy Admiral James Savridis remarked that, "...climate change, which is melting ice around the polar cap, is opening trade routes and access to billions of barrels of oil. That, in turn, could lead to competition and friction." (October 10, 2009).
The friction is between NATO and Russia, which also has corporations eager to exploit the raw materials and trade routes an iceless arctic will offer. UPI reports, "Russia sent a submarine to the Arctic seafloor in February to symbolically plant a flag and announced in March that it would establish military bases along the northern coastline."
Melting polar ice caps should inspire the world to unite in cooperation, but the world today is dominated by giant corporations based in different nations, all obsessed with short-term profits.
Obama has not publicly discussed the arms race in the arctic, and has instead focused on climate change speeches full of idealism, but lacking content. Like Bush before him, Obama is putting "U.S. [corporate] interests" ahead of the interests of everybody else.
The influence of U.S. corporations has hampered environmental progress for years: under Bill Clinton, the Senate voted unanimously (95-0) against signing the Kyoto Protocol -- the inadequate international treaty aimed at lowering greenhouse gasses. The Senate stated that the treaty "would result in serious harm to the economy [corporations] of the United States."
Without the participation of the United States and China -- the world's two biggest polluters -- the Kyoto Protocol became a pointless exercise.
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