Veteran’s Day, Sacrifice, and Climate Change

Veteran’s Day is about sacrifice – the ultimate sacrifice in many cases – but it raises a question each of us must ask: how much are we willing to sacrifice? Climate change is a major factor behind many of the world’s current conflicts, according to the CIA, and other threats are growing even closer to home.

A major study released last week suggests that climate change is accelerating, far faster than most scientists have predicted. Unlike other studies, though, it also suggests what every citizen can do to fight it, and the promise of new technologies that could shrink dangerous carbon emissions.  It brings sacrifice right down to the household level.

How You Contribute to the Melting Arctic

Here’s what it reveals:

  • The jet fuel you burned on that flight from New York City to London? That cost 1 square meter of Arctic ice.
  • Driving a gas-powered car about 90 miles — the distance between New York and Philadelphia — melts about a square foot of Arctic sea ice.
  • The average American family of four emits enough carbon to destroy 200 square meters of sea ice every year.
  • Over their lifetimes, that family will go on to destroy at least two American football field’s worth of ice — a huge threat to endangered species like polar bears.
  • A typical resident of the United States is responsible for the destruction of 10 times as much ice each year as someone in India.

An Ice Free Arctic

Simply put, every additional metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) puffed into the atmosphere appears to cost the Arctic another 3 square meters of summer sea ice. One metric ton of CO2 is produced to  meet the average monthly energy demand of the typical American household, according to some studies. One metric ton of CO2 is released to the atmosphere for every 103 gallons of gasoline used, according to another popular measure.

“It’s really basic,” says co-author Dirk Notz, a sea ice expert at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, told Science magazine, about the latest study. “In retrospect, it sounds like something someone should have done 20 years ago.”

Even more frightening, if current trends hold up, the study suggests the Arctic will be ice free by 2045—far sooner than some climate models predict. The melting is actually accelerating due to rising warm waters and changes in the earth’s rotation.