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Conservation Groups React to Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Announcement

Drastic ice reduction forecasts a warmer future for all
September 19, 2012
Washington, D.C. —

The National Snow and Ice Data Center announced today that the Arctic sea ice appeared to have reached its minimum extent on September 16 for the year of 3.41 million square kilometers (1.32 million square miles). This is the lowest seasonal minimum extent in the satellite record since 1979 and continues the long-term downward trend in Arctic ice extent. The sea ice extent will now begin its seasonal increase through autumn and winter.

“Greenland Ice Sheet melting is a significant contributor to the projected 1.6 meter sea level rise by century’s end, which would be calamitous for low-lying islands and coastal areas around the world including Florida and much of the U.S. mid-Atlantic.”  (Florian Schulz / visionsofthewild.com)

Ellen Baum, a Senior Scientist at Clean Air Task Force and Erika Rosenthal, an attorney with the International Program at Earthjustice, have the following statements on the announcement:

“This announcement is proof that things are worse than ever in the Arctic. The news out of Greenland is equally disturbing, which has also seen record levels of melting this year. These data represent an urgent call to act now to reduce short-lived climate pollutants, especially methane and black carbon, which are much more potent warming agents than CO2,” said Ellen Baum with Clean Air Task Force. “Governments can and should work together in making mitigation of these climate warming pollutants a top priority.”

“When Arctic sea ice retreats, the darker water below absorbs more incoming sunlight further warming the region and increasing melting of continental ice such as the Greenland Ice Sheet,” said Erika Rosenthal, an Earthjustice attorney. “Greenland Ice Sheet melting is a significant contributor to the projected 1.6 meter sea level rise by century’s end, which would be calamitous for low-lying islands and coastal areas around the world including Florida and much of the U.S. mid-Atlantic.”

Please join Earthjustice and Clean Air Task Force for an online press conference tomorrow, Thursday, September 20 at noon EDT to take a closer examination of Arctic sea ice and Greenland ice sheet melting. We will also examine impacts of sea level rise on low-lying islands and multi-national efforts to curb short-lived climate pollutants.

What: The summer of 2012 saw continued warm temperatures and record levels of melting ice across the Arctic. Arctic sea ice has already reached a record low by a wide margin, and melting rates in Greenland have consistently set new records almost every year since measurements began. Rising levels of atmospheric CO2 are primarily responsible for these warming trends, but reductions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) such as methane, ozone and black carbon, could have a significant impact on slowing warming rates across the Arctic. Multi-national organizations, such as the Arctic Council, can play a key role in pushing SLCP mitigation actions.

Who: Presenters will include:

  • Walt Meier, Research Scientist, National Snow and Ice Data Center, Boulder, CO on the Arctic sea ice minimum;
  • Marco Tedesco, Associate Professor, City College of New York and world-renowned specialist in the Greenland ice sheet;
  • Erika Rosenthal, Attorney, International Program, Earthjustice, on implications of Arctic warming for sea level rise and its effects on low-lying islands and communities, and the urgency of reducing SLCPs;
  • Ellen Baum, Senior Scientist, Clean Air Task Force, on multi-national efforts to curb short-lived climate pollutants in the Arctic;
  • Rafe Pomerance, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment and Development, on sea level rise.

When: Thursday, September 20, 12:00 noon Eastern Time.

How:

Step 1: Dial-In: U.S. & Canada: 866.740.1260; Access Code: 7218677
Step 2: Web Login: https://cc.readytalk.com/r/66j52blltvs9
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[Updated September 21, 2012] Watch a recording of the complete telepress conference.

Contacts

Kari Birdseye, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2098

Stuart Ross, Clean Air Task Force, (914) 649-5037

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.