Climate Change Denialists Say Polar Bears Are Fine. Scientists Are Pushing Back. – The New York Times

“Furry, button-nosed and dependent on sea ice for their survival, polar bears have long been poster animals for climate change.

But at a time when established climate science is being questioned at the highest levels of government, climate denialists are turning the charismatic bears to their own uses, capitalizing on their symbolic heft to spread doubts about the threat of global warming.

The scientific evidence that the polar bear’s Arctic home is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet is overwhelming, supported by reports like the National Climate Assessment, which was compiled by 13 federal agencies. In some Arctic regions, scientists have documented declines in polar bear numbers and disturbing signs of physical deterioration linked to the loss of sea ice. And last year, the Obama administration called human-driven climate change the biggest threat to the bears’ continued existence.

But to hear climate denialists tell it, polar bears are doing just fine. On Watts Up With That, Climate Depot and other websites that dispute climate science, bloggers insist that the Arctic’s receding ice is part of a natural warming cycle unrelated to human activities. Predictions about devastating declines in polar bear populations, they say, have failed to materialize.”

Opinion | Will We Protect Antarctica or Exploit It? – By José María Figueres – NYT

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By José María Figueres

Mr. Figueres is a former president of Costa Rica and served as chief executive of the World Economic Forum.

 

This week, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, comprising 24 nations and the European Union, is meeting in Hobart, Australia, to consider proposals to protect three areas off Antarctica’s coast totaling 1.2 million square miles. Plans for marine reserves off East Antarctica, which offer critical habitat to emperor and Adélie penguins, and in the Weddell Sea, which would shelter whales and penguins, have been on the table for several years, blocked so far by Russia and China. Both of those areas also harbor cold-water corals, glass sponges and other creatures found nowhere else on earth.

Now, a new proposal is up for consideration to establish a marine sanctuary surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula. Antarctica is one of the fastest-warming places on the planet and the Peninsula region is facing multiple pressures, including climate change variability, an increase in tourism as well as intense fishing for krill, which has led to starvation among some populations of penguins.

. . . .

Antarctica’s land mass has proved forbidding since humans first set foot on the continent, but the sea is swarming with life critical to the planet. Indeed, blooms of algae, which supply oxygen to the atmosphere, can be seen from space. And krill, another fundamental cog in the ecosystem that feeds whales, seals, penguin and many fish, have recently been found to behave in a way that accelerates the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. The ecologist Geraint Tarling of the British Antarctic Survey, who documented this phenomenon, said the finding “could equate to krill sequestering 23 million tonnes of carbon to the deep sea each year, equivalent to annual” residential emissions of greenhouse gases from Britain.

Yet these links are fragile. Sylvia Earle, the marine biologist and explorer and member of the conservation group Antarctica 2020, said: “Where we’re headed right now is not very encouraging for mankind. We continue to chew away and carve away at the systems that generate oxygen and capture carbon and maintain the chemistry of the planet that works in our favor.”

via Opinion | Will We Protect Antarctica or Exploit It? – The New York Times

In the Arctic- the Old Ice Is Disappearing – The New York Times

In the Arctic Ocean, some ice stays frozen year-round, lasting for many years before melting. But this winter, the region hit a record low for ice older than five years.

This, along with a near-record low for sea ice over all, supports predictions that by midcentury there will be no more ice in the Arctic Ocean in summer.

As darker, heat-absorbing water replaces reflective ice, it hastens warming in the region. Older ice is generally thicker than newer ice and thus more resilient to heat. But as the old ice disappears, the newer ice left behind is more vulnerable to rising temperatures.

“First-year ice grows through winter and then to up to a maximum, which is usually around in March,” said Mark A. Tschudi, a research associate at the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “As summer onsets, the ice starts to melt back.”

Some of the new ice melts each summer, but some of it lingers to grow thicker over the following winter, forming second-year ice. The next summer, some of that second-year ice survives, then grows even thicker and more resilient the next winter, creating what is known as multiyear ice. Some ice used to last more than a decade.

via In the Arctic, the Old Ice Is Disappearing – The New York Times