Water, Water, Everywhere

Greenland is achieving all kinds of records and they aren’t good. The North Pole’s ice cap was 1.32 million square miles, which is 18 percent smaller than the 2007 record of 1.61 million square miles.

Scientists’ models are projecting an ice-free Arctic by the summer of 2050. According to a New York Times article, some scientists are saying that we could have an ice-free Greenland as early as 2020. National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) scientist Walt Meier said in an Associated Press article that the ice in the Arctic “essentially acts like an air conditioner by keeping things cooler.” He goes on to explain that “sea ice reflects more than 90 percent of the sun’s heat off the Earth, but when it is replaced by the darker open ocean, more than half of the heat is absorbed into the water.”

What that means is that as ice melts, things heat up even faster, making more ice melt. NSIDC scientist Dr. Julienne Stroeve said in a Greenpeace press release, “The loss of summer sea ice has led to unusual warming of the Arctic atmosphere, that in turn impacts weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere, that can result in persistent extreme weather such as droughts, heat waves and flooding.”

So what does this mean other than rising temperatures? Normally, glaciers in water displace water and when they melt, it doesn’t effect sea levels that much. However, since most of the ice in Greenland is on land, we could see sea levels rise enough to effect low lying coastal areas. And, as water heats up, it expands. A 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change posted on Space.com estimates that if all of Greenland’s ice melts, we could see a 23 feet increase in global sea levels. This would be enough to inundate London, Venice, and Los Angles as well as New York, New Orleans, Miami, Tampa, Virginia Beach, and many others.

What Else Does This Mean?

It means that new sea routes are opening up. It also means that the Arctic’s oil, gas, and mineral supplies are being explored. Although Greenland only has one working mine, more than 100 new sites are being mapped out. Oil and gas companies are exploring because some experts estimate that more than 20 percent of the world’s oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic.

Meanwhile, countries are vying for position. The Arctic is governed by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. Borders are suddenly being debated and negotiated. The United States Senate has yet to ratify the Convention of the Law of the Sea which prevents us from negotiating those borders. Both the Bush and Obama Administrations have pushed for ratification.

What Can We Do?

The majority of the scientific community agrees that the warming is due to man-made climate change. By initiating a recycling program at your business, you can help reduce greenhouse gases.

It’s estimated that 60 percent of our trash could be recycled. Plastic, glass, and paper can all be recycled. But so can electronics, metals, auto parts, batteries, grass clippings, tires, and much more.

Plastic bottles can sit in a landfill for 100 years. Earth 911 estimates that producing plastic from recycled materials uses two-thirds less energy than making them with raw materials. This savings also reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

It takes power, oil, and water to make glass. By recycling it, you save those natural resources and landfill waste. Recycling or donating electronics is better than throwing them in a landfill where they just take up space. You may also get a tax deduction on donations.

If your community participates in a pay-as-you-throw program, then recycling will also save you money. And, you will be saving the environment for future generations.

The National Recycling Coalition put together some facts about recycling:

• Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees.

• The energy saved when one glass bottle is recycled can light a light bulb for four hours.

• Recycling benefits the air and water by creating a net reduction in ten major categories of air pollutants and eight major categories of water pollutants.

• It takes 95 percent less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to make it from raw materials. Making recycled steel saves 60 percent, newspaper 40 percent, plastics 70 percent, and glass 40 percent.

• A national recycling rate of 30 percent (it was 28 percent last year, the highest ever) reduces greenhouse gas emissions as much as removing nearly 25 million cars from the road.

Now that would be a record worth breaking.

Find out more on what you can recycle at www.epa.gov.

Find out more on recycling at www.recycling-revolution.com

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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