Reducing methane emissions could play a significant role in saving Arctic sea ice

Arctic summer sea ice rapidly declines as temperatures increase
Summer sea ice in the Arctic has declined 40 percent since 1979, as temperatures increase.
Courtesy of the Environmental Defense Fund

It’s normal for Arctic sea ice — the stuff floating on the water’s surface, not the large ice sheets we’re used to hearing about in climate coverage — to melt in warmer seasons, but not completely.

That could change by the 2030s, when research suggests the Arctic could see its first summer with no sea ice at all. And that’s a problem, said Tianyi Sun, a climate scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

When the ice melts, "we are replacing the very reflective ice surface with dark ocean water. And that means more sunlight will get absorbed by the Arctic ocean, and that means more warming globally,” Sun explained on this week’s episode of Climate Cast.

But new research from Sun and her colleagues shows summer sea ice could be saved if we aggressively reduce methane emissions alongside carbon reductions. And she said the technology to do so is not only available now, it’s relatively affordable.

Likelihood of preserving Arctic summer sea ice in 2100
The Arctic is on track to lose all of its summer sea ice by the middle of this century. But research suggests that tapping into existing methane reduction technology, in combination with reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, improves the likelihood of saving it by 80 percent.
Courtesy of the Environmental Defense Fund

To hear more from Sun, click play on the audio player above or subscribe to the Climate Cast podcast.

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