Twice as fast? Three times? Nope – now Svalbard is warming six times faster than the average elsewhere on Earth during the past six decades, according to figures unveiled only days after Longyearbyen surpassed nine consecutive years of above-average monthly temperatures.
Meanwhile, another new report declares even that pace is being outdone by Greenland’s ice melt, which is seven times faster than during the early 1990s. That alone will likely cause sea level to rise 67 centimeters by 2100 and suggests warming is occurring at high-end scenario rates in terms of global impacts.
But as the 12-day 25th United Nations Climate Change conference prepares to wrap up on Friday, headlines are largely about discouragement in terms of recent high-profile policies and activism having much real impact. And of course skeptics are ridiculing the latest numbers as absurd alarmism, if they’re paying attention at all.
Svalbard’s temperature has risen by 5.6 degrees Celsius since 1961, compared to 0.9 degrees globally, Ketil Isaksen, a climate researcher at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, told Norway Today in an article published Sunday. He said no other location is warming faster.
“In some months the temperature in the area around Longyearbyen has been 12 to 14 degrees above normal,” he said.
Furthermore, a study released early this year declared average temperatures in Svalbard could rise up to ten degrees Celsius by 2100 – and winters in the northernmost portion could be up to 20 degrees warmer – in worst-case scenarios.
The rate of Greenland’s ice melt has alarmed researchers for years and the study by 100 scientists published Tuesday heated that to another level. The rate of loss was about 33 billion tons per year during the 1990s, but now is about 254 billion tons per year.
“The mid-range scenario becomes what was previously the upper scenario, and they will have to invent a new upper scenario, because one currently doesn’t exist,” Andrew Shepherd, the study’s co-lead investigator, told the Washington Post. He said “just one centimeter of sea-level rise brings another 6 million people into seasonal, annual floods.”
But plenty of studies with dire predictions have already been released – not to mention plenty of costly and damaging impacts locally (i.e. home-wrecking avalanches and seed vault leakage) and globally (i.e. catastrophic flooding and fires) attributed to climate change. While plenty of headlines are focusing on climate change during the COP25 conference in Madrid, the tone of many (“EU’s soaring climate rhetoric not always matched by action,” Greta Thunberg accuses world leaders of ‘creative PR’ at climate summit) aren’t likely to encourage those seeking action.
(And, no, Thunberg being named Time’s Person of the Year on Wednesday isn’t likely to be a healing moment.)
Also, true to form, reactions from readers about the latest climate reports remain as stubborn as ever at both respectable and rascally news websites:
• “Time will tell whether today’s young environmentalists stick to their guns once the realities of adulthood kick in and they need to find money to pay the rent. Depressingly, I can’t see it myself. Plenty of young people in my day were won over to the environmental cause – acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer, save the rainforest, Captain Planet and all that – but very few of them lasted the course.” (Guardian “pick”)
• “In the past the sea level has risen and fallen about 400 ft 3 different times, call them ice ages or whatever but man had no impact on these.” (top-rated comment at Yahoo News)
• “Why do Climate Change Fanatics never complain or protest about the MASSIVE pollution of China? Because China is ALREADY a Communist Country!” (top-rated comment at Newser)
• “More b u l l s h e e t from pinkstone…..” (best-rated comment at the Daily Mail)