Airdate: Dec 11, 2002
Scientist: Michael Oppenheimer
Melting Polar Ice Cap: Future
The North Pole is melting, and scientists tell us it will effect everything from polar bears to international politics.
Melting Polar Icecap - Future
Music; Ambience: Polar bear fx
We're listening to the sounds of a Polar Bear, recorded near the North Pole. Think of the North Pole, and you most likely picture a vast expanse of ice. But that ice is now apparently melting, and within this century it may be completely gone during the summers -- affecting everything from polar bears to international politics. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Michael Oppenheimer of the Environmental Defense Fund is one of the atmospheric scientists who are now pondering the disappearance of the Arctic icepack.
"From a biological point of view it could prove disastrous. There are many relatively rare or even endangered species which are dependent on the existence of ice flows, on the existence of a margin where ice meets water. Animals like polar bears which fish off the ice flows. Those animals would simply lose their habitat if the polar ice disappeared."
The loss of the North Polar ice is also expected to speed up global warming, because the sunlight that's usually reflected by the ice will instead be absorbed by the ocean surface, raising the temperature of the earth's water. As a consequence, international politics may come into play.
"For centuries, countries have sought a quick route through the western hemisphere, to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific, for reasons of trade or reasons of national security. All those strategic calculations and economic calculations go out the window if the ice isn't there and if there's free passage year round. There'll be competition for economic advantage in that sphere. There'll be countries trying to claim sovereignty over sea routes."
To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.