According to scientists, Arctic sea ice could begin vanishing each summer by the end of the century, even if the world meets its target of keeping temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius or less. The 2015 Paris agreement seeks to prevent temperatures from rising above a threshold of 2 degrees above pre-industrial averages, aspiring to go further to keep it below a 1.5C threshold.
After a review of ice projections, Daniel Williamson and James Screen of Exeter University wrote in the Nature Climate Change journal that “The 2C target may be insufficient to prevent an ice-free Arctic.”
They said that a 2C increase would still entail a 39 percent risk that ice would begin to disappear entirely from the Arctic during summers. They also added that if temperatures increases stay below the 1.5C goal, ice would almost certainly remain in the Arctic. Currently, there is a 73 percent chance ice could begin to disappear each year if governments fail to make further reductions in emissions, according to the scientists. They estimate a 3C rise if emissions continue along current trends.
The extent of Arctic sea ice this month has rivaled previous years including 2015 and 2016 as the smallest extent since the start of satellite records in the late 1970s. Arctic sea ice reaches a minimum summer extent in September and an annual winter maximum in March.
Tor Eldevik, who is a professor at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research at the University of Bergen in Norway, and not involved in the study, said “In less than 40 years, we have almost halved the summer sea ice cover,” and added that ice would disappear from the Arctic in about 40 years if current trends were to continue.
For scientists, an ice-fee Arctic does not mean a total absence of ice from the Arctic Ocean, but means less than 386,000 square miles worth remaining. They say that even in this situation, some ice will remain in bays in areas like northern Greenland.
The news comes after one of the worst winters on record for Arctic sea ice.
The report comes during a perilous time for climate progress, with President Donald Trump having promised to “cancel” the Paris climate accord, and bringing about a flurry of deregulation since taking office, much of which involved greenhouse emissions. He has, however, pledged to keep an “open mind” on the subject.