Arctic ice almost gone... What does this mean for humanity?

Besides the extinction of polar bears, I mean?

Considering this is predicted to come to a head during the lifetime of most people reading this board, I think it’s a very relevant issue.

I equally welcome those who don’t believe in climate change to analyze this too, in terms of their POV. It’d be interesting.

The effects of ice melting in the summer we don’t know but if the Gulf-stream eventually weakens or stops… Scotland becomes Fairbanks.

At over 3 million square miles, I wouldn’t call it almost gone. It’s a major issue, but hyperbole doesn’t help this argument.

I saw that, but then I read about some estimating (not quoted in this article, I admit) it’d be all gone in five to to eight years or so, so I didn’t think that it was TOO much hyperbole.

Man fails to read news article.

Except it is great debates and you’ve intentionally poisoned the well by deliberately misstating the science. We’re only talking about summer ice by the way, there is no one predicting winter arctic ice is going to be gone forever anytime soon. Plus, unless you have some actual citations outside of a garbage rag like the Guardian that show real scientists saying all summer arctic ice will be gone within 5-8 years we can take that claim about as seriously as your thread title.

Now, let’s assume for one second we had no arctic ice at previous points in the earth’s history in which there was an abundance of life, so we can probably look back to that time to make predictions about what life for humans would be like in a similar situation.

spend the ten seconds necessary to Google before posting a snarky rejoinder.

No, it’s not your job to find his cites for him, but c’mon, if you’re going to act as though he misunderstood the article, be sure that’s what happened. This isn’t hyperbole at all, unfortunately.


Call it snarky if you wish, but if we are going to have a serious debate about hard science, I think it’s best to be accurate, and take the emotion out of it. Otherwise you’ll have what we have here. A debate about what axe one is trying to grind and not what is really happening. You can also take this out of the article:

"However, Laxon urged caution, saying: “First, this is based on preliminary studies of CryoSat figures, so we should take care before rushing to conclusions. In addition, the current rate of ice volume decline could change.” Nevertheless, experts say computer models indicate rates of ice volume decline are only likely to increase over the next decade.

As to the accuracy of the measurements made by CryoSat, these have been calibrated by comparing them to measurements made on the ice surface by scientists including Laxon; by planes flying beneath the satellite’s orbit; and by data supplied by underwater sonar stations that have analysed ice thickness at selected places in the Arctic. “We can now say with confidence that CryoSat’s maps of ice thickness are correct to within 10cm,” Laxon added.

Laxon also pointed out that the rate of ice loss in winter was much slower than that in summer. “That suggests that, as winter starts, ice is growing more rapidly than it did in the past and that this effect is compensating, partially, for the loss of summer ice.”

So while I agree that it’s a major issue, I think the hyperbole hurts the argument.

I’d say that the sea ice being gone in the summer, in and of itself and regardless of the time frame wouldn’t really mean that much to humanity. There shouldn’t be any associated sea level rise, if that’s what you are afraid of, since sea ice displaces the same volume as the water contained in it. It might make the oceans marginally less salty but it shouldn’t have a profound effect I shouldn’t think. Of course, all of the associated problems that are causing the sea ice to melt will ALSO be impacting the environment, which will mean we’ll have a lot more to worry about than no summer sea ice, at a guess.

On the plus side, it will open up new northern trade routes and IIRC some potential new resources that are currently under the ice in the ocean (oil, natural gas, that sort of thing). On the down side, both Russia and Canada (and I think one or two other European countries in the area…Norway maybe? Sweden?) will be fighting over who owns those trade routes and those resources. On the plus side again, they won’t (probably) be fighting in reality, but battling in the world courts, so no one should get killed over it.

The change in weather does have an effect in localized sea level rise.

Despite the seemingly logical “the level would rise every place” it does not.

I’m sure there would be some rise, but it wouldn’t be the massive Water World experience I think most people believe would happen. Of course, if the sea ice melts then that probably means that a lot of the land glaciers would melt as well, or at least be moving a hell of a lot faster into the sea, and THAT would certainly cause ocean levels to rise globally.

New shipping lanes!

Polar bears get merged back with grizzlies where they belong-- damn splitters!

I have to agree with Martin that the OP is misrepresenting the idea that summer ice (not winter ice) may soon be gone.

Um, that isn’t a counterpoint at all, his thread title is in contravention to what the article said, and no one has yet to come up with a cite supporting his other unsupported assertion–that all arctic sea ice will be gone in 5-8 years. You coming in with a totally different cite supporting increased rates of ice melt doesn’t support his thread title saying the ice is “almost gone.”

Ironically, you’ll probably see a lot more oil on the market. There’s apparently some major oil fields under the Arctic ice that have always been inaccessible. But if the ice starts every year, they can extract the oil via offshore drilling. (This will have the interesting effect of making oil a seasonal product like farm produce.) The ironic part is that most scientists feel it’s oil consumption that is causing the Arctic thaw.

Another possible downside of this is, as XT noted, the possibility of war. The oil fields make the Arctic a region worth fighting over and there are rival claims already being argued.


The OP also said, “Considering this is predicted to come to a head during the lifetime of most people reading this board”; I took that to mean it was a hypothetical discussion.

I agree that the hyperbole doesn’t help…and that the OP obviously wanted to discuss the possibility of no sea ice, and that this should be what we focus on in this discussion…

Considering the changes in weather patterns (such as unusually cold winters) that have already been observed (even new ones), we’ll probably see a lot worse in the coming years; “over the past two years, the climate has shifted to a new state capable of delivering rare and unprecedented weather events”.

Plus there is all of that methane under the Arctic just waiting to come up (and it already is if reports like this are any indication; “seas bubbling as if they were boiling”, nevermind this scary paper, see page 34 to see what I mean; “This is enough to trigger abrupt climate change”, and that is based on measured emissions).

Also, it should be noted that sea ice extent is a relatively crude measurement of the true state of the sea ice, since extent can mean anything from a solid field of ice 5 meters thick to this (halfway down the right side where there aren’t any clouds); yes, that is considered to be ice-covered when extent is used, but there is also area, already near a new record low, which factors in the actual percentage of ice coverage (extent is based on a 15% cutoff).

I totally agree, but I also don’t think when I point out the OP is stating things that aren’t in the article it’s a good counterargument for LHoD to say “well look what I found on google!” as if that somehow undoes the fact that the OP misrepresented what was in the article. If the OP wanted to represent something from another article, he should have done that, it doesn’t refute my point that the OP misrepresented the article to cite a totally different article at me.

But I’ve actually addressed the hypothetical too, we’ve had previous periods in which there was no arctic ice but we had complex life on earth. I don’t know how long ago we last had this scenario, but I know from 56 mya to 49 mya there was virtually no ice on earth and you had reptiles living on Ellesmere Island north of the arctic circle.

So my assumption is even if all ice on earth melted we’d be able to survive as a species, so if all the arctic summer sea ice was gone I assume it’d have minor to moderate impacts but a lot less drastic than what we saw during the Eocene, and even the impact of warming akin to what we saw in the Eocene wouldn’t be doomsday scenario type stuff (although I think it would be bad for extant human civilization.)