By: ISABELLA CHECHELE
Global warming is a real problem. We’ve known this for a while now (we, the people who listen to science and facts, and not just big name politicians, at least). And unfortunately, conditions are only getting worse for one region in particular: The Arctic.
After 13 months at sea, the world’s largest Arctic science expedition has come to an end. The Polarstern, the German research vessel that led the mission, docked port back in Germany on October 12th last week.
Even though the data and findings of the expedition have not been analyzed yet-it will take over two years to do so in its entirety-the team behind the project says the future of the Arctic is bleak.
“We witnessed how the Arctic ocean is dying,” said Markus Rex, the expedition’s leader. “We saw this process right outside our windows, or when we walked on the brittle ice.”
The crew’s original plan for the expedition was to observe a floe (a sheet of floating ice) and gather data from it. Along the way, they faced several roadblocks that pushed back progress significantly. For instance, the start of the pandemic in spring cancelled many necessary crew flights, leaving crew members stranded at the North Pole for two whole months.
But most significantly, the mission ended up stuck in what scientist Matthew Shupe describes as being “embedded right in the middle of climate change.”. While making observations on the floes, the crew watched one floe slowly freeze the Polarstern into place, then shrink and break apart.
The situation was far from terrible for the researchers, according to Shupe. “We never planned to be around for that ‘death of an ice floe’ process,” he said, “The fact that we were embedded right in the middle of that was really exciting.”. However, this premature melting of the floe confirmed all but happy results; the Arctic is in immediate, growing danger of extinction.
With the success of this expedition comes the call to combat climate change once and for all. A change for anti-climate change, if you will.
In Markus Rex’s own words, “Arctic sea ice is not only an important part of the global climate system; it is also a unique ecosystem and the basis of life for many indigenous societies. We should do everything within our power to preserve it for future generations. If we don’t make immediate and sweeping efforts to combat climate warming, we’ll soon see ice-free Arctic summers, which will have incalculable repercussions for our own weather and climate.”
There are lots of ways to fight climate change, but here are a few of the smaller things you and the people around you can do to help:
- Cut back on water usage, such as taking shorter showers and turning the tap off while brushing your teeth.
- Eat less meat/reduce food waste-according to Aliya Haq from NRDC, about 10 percent of US energy goes into growing, processing, packaging and shipping food, and 40 percent of that ends up in landfills. Most of that includes meat products.
- Recycle, which helps reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Support environmentally-friendly companies & companies working to reduce their carbon footprint.