What does an Ice-Free Arctic mean?

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Stephen Leahy’s article (published by the Inter Press Service) on the “uncharted territory” of an ice-free arctic makes interesting reading.  It’s not just a problem for the indigenous peoples of the circumpolar region.  It’s not just a problem for polar bears, although they are faced with extinction as a result.  And in that context talking about it being a problem for us because it’ll change our weather seems facile.

What is interesting is reading it having just been reading Farley Mowat’s Canada North Now: The Great Betrayal.  The Second Edition was published in 1976, and whilst the impact of extraction industries on the landscape and culture of the North was foremost in the author’s mind, at that time the Arctic Sea Ice was a given.  There is no sense in this book of the Polar Ice Cap changing.  In 36 years we’ve gone from assuming that it’s a given, a permanent feature of the world, to a point where one summer it’ll be gone and the news will cover the first ship at the North Pole.  It’s quite a change.  The speed of change is what we seem to be unable to grasp.

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