In 2018, the Arctic had its warmest winter on record at least 10º(F) above normal. The Arctic is missing 62,000 square miles of ice below last year’s record low.
Minus the ice, the latent heat from the Arctic Ocean transfers immense amounts of energy into the troposphere. It supercharges the polar jet stream which now meanders 10, 20 and even 30º southward, off course. This wayward polar jet stream has unleashed deadly and wild weather around the globe, including recent snowfalls in London and Rome.
Once upon a time the Arctic region experienced one or two winter heat waves per decade.
Unbridled economic growth has infused 300 zetta joules of fossil fuel heat into the oceans. Half of that energy or 150 zetta joules have accumulated in the last 20 years, alone. That’s the equivalent heat of detonating one Hiroshima-style bomb every second for 75 consecutive years.
The oceans drive Earth’s climate. That oceanic heat is a catastrophe. Everything from phytoplankton (the basis of the entire marine food web) to jellyfish, sea turtles, seabirds, fish stocks and blue whales are shifting toward the cooler respective poles by up to 10º. The oceans are sick, spreading diseases in humans and other animals.
Everything is interconnected on our planet. The latest Arctic heatwave (some 45º(F) above normal) on February 21 is implicated in disgorging tens of thousands of sea stars and other creatures (i.e. crabs, lobsters, gulls, fish) along Kent’s beaches, in southwest England. The Atlantic Ocean current along southwest Britain was unseasonably frigid. Sea life perished from a violent winter storm and hypothermia.
Earth’s climate has crossed an irreversible threshold. Higher highs and lower lows are an indicator of climate instability. Prolonged heatwaves are lethal for honeybees. Healthy honeybees are vitally important for our global food security.
2017 was a disastrous year for tropical rainforests – the lungs of the land. Forests provide more than one in every three breaths of oxygen for 7.6 billion procreating humans. The Amazon rainforests, the largest remaining intact tropical community on the globe, was lambasted by three one-in one-hundred-year droughts since 2005, firestorms and a fierce windstorm that blew down about 500 million trees. Billions of dead mature trees are decaying and releasing heat-trapping CO2 into an overburdened atmosphere. Instead of contributing oxygen and removing atmospheric CO2 the Amazon and other tropical forests are breaking down, pouring megatons of heat-trapping gases into a hothouse atmosphere.
There’s only one thing to be done: reduce fossil fuel emissions immediately until we attain a zero-combustion economy as soon as possible. It’s time to stop annually rewarding the wealthiest and biggest polluters with $5.3 trillion fossil fuel subsidies.
Stanford University’s The Solutions Project has a blueprint for 139 countries to reach a zero-combustion economy.
Meanwhile the U.S. is flooding the global marketplace with billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas while the fossil fuel oligarchs, aided by politicians, are profiteering and quickly killing the forests, coral reefs and all creatures on our planet.
Something must be done.
Dr Reese Halter is a treehugger, storyteller, award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.