Canadian Arctic sea ice’s rapid disappearance a serious problem

Rating: High school and post-secondary

Summary: Markham interviews Prof. Warwick Vincent, Canada Research Chair in Aquatic Ecosystem Studies and leader of the Aquatic Ecosystem Studies laboratory at Université Laval, about recent significant losses of ice in the Canadian high Arctic.

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Witnessing ice habitat collapse in the Arctic

Markham Hislop: The federal government prime minister, Justin Trudeau just announced their new updated climate plan, which now is going to focus on Canada’s activities to lower its greenhouse gas emissions. And one of the issues that’s going to be a poor important part of that plan is what to do about the melting and the high Arctic melting of the ice up there and the rise in sea level. So we’re going to talk to professor Vincent Warwick of Laval university about that issue and welcome to the interview.

Professor Vincent Warwick: Well, thanks very much. Thanks for having me.

Markham Hislop: I confess this is not an issue or a topic that I’ve reported on much. So I’m going to turn it over to you if you could give us an overview of the issue, please.

Professor Vincent Warwick: We’re working on this northern region of Ellesmere Island, the northern region of the Canadian high Arctic, really the top of Canada. And it’s along this area along this coastline, actually the Northern most coastline in the world that extends all the way to Greenland that we find the thickest ice in the Arctic basin, the biggest ice in the Arctic ocean. And this is really important because sea ice is disappearing incredibly rapidly across the Arctic.

We’re very concerned about the future of habitat for polar bears, for marine mammals or marine life in general, of course. This ice is so culturally important to the people that live in the North, especially the Inuits. This region along the northern coastline is of such utmost importance because it’s there that the ice accumulates, and we think that this will be a refuge for marine species in the future, at least up until 2050, maybe beyond that. It’s kind of the last region for cold-loving life.

But what we’re seeing and we’ve been working up there now for about 20 years or so, we’re now seeing rapid change. And this year, for example, we saw the loss of half of the last remaining ice shelve in the area, the milne ice shelf, a huge section of it, the size of Manhattan carved off and disappeared away with its ecosystem.

Markham Hislop: My understanding is that you’re asking the federal government to give this area protection.

Professor Vincent Warwick: That’s correct. At the moment, this area has interim protection as the result of a partnership, between an Inuit organization, Kitikmeot association and the federal government, it has had interim protection, at least a portion of it until 2024. And what we’re asking is that this protection really should be in perpetuity. It is, this is such a critical zone.

Markham Hislop: So we have the local habitat the Arctic wildlife populations Marine life and so on. But my understanding is that the melting of this ice or Arctic ice generally is leading to an increase in global sea levels of about seven tenths of a millimeter every year, which is a great concern to scientists.

Professor Vincent Warwick: Well, I think more and more we’re realizing that what happens to the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic that we’re all affected by the Arctic. And you’re absolutely right. Sea level is, is the most worrying aspect of this in the short term. We’ve got the Greenland ice cap we’re seeing glaciers associated with that, that have lost their protective cap and now melting it, at unprecedented rates that ice is the equivalent of a nine meter rise in sea level If we lose all of it. While that would take a huge amount of time. But even small changes are enough to greatly worry us here in Canada and around the world with our coastal cities.

Markham Hislop: And I would assume this would be the last question Warburg, but I, I would assume that the only real protection for this ice and for the Artic in general is to arrest global warming and stay at 1.5 degrees, by the end of the century.

Professor Vincent Warwick: Absolutely. So these conservation zones are critically important, more important than ever as interim measures to prevent those other stresses such as shipping and resource extraction. That climate change is superimposed on an X as an amplifying role, but the ultimate protection is only greenhouse gas mitigation, and the respect of the Paris agreement to keep that down to 1.5 degrees or less, and the models are quite clear, it makes a huge difference in the security of this area and the security of Planet Earth.

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