DATE: December 18, 2017
SNIP: Last week, at a New Orleans conference center that once doubled as a storm shelter for thousands during Hurricane Katrina, a group of polar scientists made a startling declaration: The Arctic as we once knew it is no more.
The region is now definitively trending toward an ice-free state, the scientists said, with wide-ranging ramifications for ecosystems, national security, and the stability of the global climate system. It was a fitting venue for an eye-opening reminder that, on its current path, civilization is engaged in an existential gamble with the planet’s life-support system.
In an accompanying annual report on the Arctic’s health — titled “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades” — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees all official U.S. research in the region, coined a term: “New Arctic.”
In an interview with NPR, marine scientist Jeremy Mathis, director of NOAA’s Arctic Program, went a step further. When it comes to the Arctic, Mathis said “there is no normal” anymore: “The environment is changing so quickly in such a short amount of time that we can’t quite get a handle on what this new state is going to look like.”
“The rate of change is unprecedented in at least the last 1,500 years and probably going back even further than that,” Mathis said. “Not only are we seeing big changes, we’re seeing the pace of that change begin to increase.”