The following is the first of a series on Deniers and the Damage They Do…
By now you’ve more than likely read that the Arctic Ocean’s floating sea ice has already retreated to a record minimum. And you’ve probably heard that every scientist who hasn’t been bought off agrees: global warming is to blame. And you might have even heard that Greenpeace activists have been staging protests and attaching themselves to oil rigs and ice breakers en-route to the polar region. You may already be one of the 1.6 million people who have signed the group’s online petition urging world leaders to declare the Arctic a global sanctuary, off limits to oil exploration and industrial fishing. And there’s an off-chance you’re one of the dozens of celebrities, including Robert Redford, Paul McCartney and Penelope Cruz, who have announced your support for Greenpeace’s campaign.
The following map and excerpt from a Science News article titled, “Arctic sea ice hits record low and keeps going,” reveals the present status of the Arctic ice cap. The average ice coverage for the 21 years between 1979 and 2000 is demarked by the orange line that can be seen running from the Greenland Sea, west and north of Svalbard, through the Laptev Sea to Russia’s Wrangel Island and through the Beaufort Sea to the Canadian Archipelago. The difference between that area and the area presently covered by ice is at best, shocking. …
The six lowest sea-ice extents on satellite record have occurred in just the last six years. More melt means more open water exposed to sunlight. In turn, that water absorbs more heat and causes feedback loops that heat the Arctic even more.
As of August 26, Arctic sea ice covered 70,000 square kilometers below the previous satellite-era record from 2007, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.
“The ice cover is now just so thin and weak in the springtime that large parts of it can’t survive the melt season,” says NSIDC director Mark Serreze.
Arctic sea ice grows in winter and melts partly away each summer. Overall, more sea ice has been lost each year as temperatures rise. From 1979 to 2011, the amount of sea ice left in September at the end of each melt season dropped by an average of 12 percent per decade.
The ice isn’t just shrinking; it’s also thinning. The Arctic used to contain lots of thick ice — some 3 to 4 meters thick — that survived year after year. Now it’s dominated by thinner ice only 1 to 2 meters thick and just one to two summers old. “It’s almost like parts of the Arctic have become a giant slushee at this time of year,” says Walt Meier, a sea ice expert at NSIDC.
In 2007, the previous record year, winds, cloud cover and other weather conditions were just right for a lot of ice to melt away. “There were a number of people saying  was a one-off and you’ll never see this perfect storm again,” says Serreze. “What Mother Nature is telling us is that you don’t need a perfect storm anymore, just because the ice is so thin now.” …
Meanwhile, in answer to these new conditions, oil companies are poised to begin installing offshore oils rigs and drilling in the backyards of walrus and polar bears. Greenpeace and other environmental groups say an oil spill in the Arctic could cause irreparable damage to wildlife and marine ecosystems. That’s no shit. With a brief growing season and comparatively little seawater circulation, the Arctic Ocean must be one the most delicate environs on the planet.
Fears that the oil industry is unprepared to operate in the hostile conditions of the far north where storms are frequent were accentuated when a floating oil rig capsized off eastern Russia last December, killing more than 50 workers.
Surely halting any new oil and gas drilling in the fragile north is an important step in solving the world’s problems. But considering that the loss of the polar ice cap is a direct result of global warming, and global warming is a direct result of human activities (chiefly the burning of fossil fuels for energy, transportation and meat production), wouldn’t the real answer be to put a halt to ALL further oil exploration and drilling everywhere? When you take into account that further planetary warming could well result in a steady flow of cold Arctic melt-water into the North Atlantic, thereby disrupting the deep sea conveyer that cycles weather as we know it, while fueling the very vitality of the living oceans, the answer must be a resounding, if reluctant “Yes!”
So what does all this have to do with deniers and the damage they do?
Chances are if you’ve heard of global warming, you’ve heard of global warming deniers. Maybe you are one yourself. If so, it’s time to wake up and smell the methane! The planet can’t wait for people to quit bickering and decide to make some major changes. If we don’t curtail our daily carbon output and change our consumptive ways, the climate is going to change for us, and leave our mechanized world in the dust.
Like “young Earth” creationists who still deny evolution because they don’t like to think of humans as mere animals, or hunters who don’t want to admit their species’ role in the ongoing extinction spasm, global warming deniers don’t want to accept humankind’s hand in radically changing the climate—to the detriment of all who’ve adapted to it over the eons. It’s time to evolve out of this hyper age of planes, trains and automobiles, put away our motorbikes, jet boats and snowmobiles along with the rest of our gas-burning toys, slow the fuck down and try to live at pace more in keeping with the rest of this living planet—while we still have one.
Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson