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Environmentally speaking, it can said that we live in a horror movie…



Massive amounts of melting Arctic ice threaten the world as we know it.

Well, guess what? It’s no movie; it’s real, and the plot goes something like this: Massive amounts of melting Arctic tundra release massive bubbles of methane and carbons dioxide gases into the atmosphere, which in turn causes more melting, which in turn causes global warming, which in turn creates monster weather patterns that threaten to end civilization as we know it.

Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You.
This year, an area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the United States melted. In a U.N. climate talks report, Arctic ice melt was described as just one of a myriad of extreme and record-breaking weather events to hit the planet in 2012. Though droughts devastated nearly two-thirds of the United States as well western Russia and southern Europe, floods swamped west Africa and heat waves left much of the Northern Hemisphere sweltering, it was the ice melt that dominated the annual climate report, with the U.N. pointing out that ice cover in the area around the North Pole had declined to a new record low — the loss from March to September a staggering 11.83 million square kilometers (4.57 million square miles).

The shocking rate of ice melt this year highlights the far-reaching changes taking place in Earth’s oceans and biosphere, and reinforces the idea that climate change will continue its progression as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records.

This kind of climate change news is just one of several global warming alarm bells currently ringing. The related phenomenon of permafrost melt has a significant potential factor in global warming models. Permafrost, soil at or below the freezing point of water 0 °C (32 °F) for two or more years, is one of the keys to the planet’s future as it contains large stores of frozen organic (read, carbon-based) matter.

Approximately 24% of the land mass in the Northern hemisphere contains permafrost which can extend down beneath the surface to almost 2,300 feet. By the year 2100 a possible 3° Celsius increase in global temperatures will cause a 6° Celsius increase in Arctic temperatures, which could melt from 30% to 85% of the permafrost near the surface releasing vast quantities of the presently trapped greenhouse gases CO2 and methane in the process. In addition to environmental changes and damage, the damage to social and physical infrastructure (roads, bridges and buildings) in regions with permafrost could be staggering, placing added economic catastrophe on those regions. Even more serious, however, is the fact that the release of carbon dioxide and methane from warming permafrost is irreversible: once the organic matter thaws and decays away, there is no way to put it back into the permafrost.

Yet Another Global Warming Movie.
I refer you to a rivetingly alarming documentary called Chasing Ice, which documents, with time-lapse photography, the epic melting and retreat of the Arctic glaciers — a melting that confirms the filling, at an unprecedented rate, of the world’s seas and atmosphere with water that has nowhere to go but onto land.

In the documentary, 27 cameras were set up at critical locations on three continents, recording images every half hour, and thus yielding up to 8,000 images a year. Arranged as time-lapse video, the shrinking of the glaciers in the northern hemisphere and the higher altitudes of our planet is plain to see, and absolutely mind-blowing. One of the most shocking sequences in the film takes place on the edge of an unstable Greenland glacier: a jaw-dropping one-hour-and-16-minutes episode in which a chunk of glacier that is larger than the size of Manhattan breaks off an ice sheet and floats in pieces into the ocean. Massive blocks of ice overturn, submerge and emerge in frozen waters, with resulting seismic booms echoing throughout the environment. Though this image might sound like something straight out of our Icezilla horror movie, it is, in fact, real. The largest documented incident of calving — the process through which glaciers break off into smaller pieces — is just one of the terrifying, haunting images in film.

Check it out!

To view this movie is to witness epic amounts of ice turning into billions of gallons of water, in real time. It is impossible to watch it and not wonder how islands on the edge of the ocean, like Manhattan, are not already underwater. Because it’s happening so slowly, mostly out of sight and with no apparent solution, it’s been almost impossible to get emotional about global warming. Until Sandy. The reality is that the city of New York will very likely be mostly underwater in 100 years: gone or utterly transformed by the time our grandchildren are adults; the last generation to remember such a great city.

Critics might dismiss Chasing Ice as a latest addition to the ever-increasing arena of histrionic climate change films. However, Chasing Ice distinguishes itself from the pack of climate change-oriented films by not bashing viewers over the head with statistics or doomsday predictions, or relentless attacks on other viewpoints. Rather, the film departs from highly emotional, hyperbolic dialogue that has come to characterize the debate about climate change more generally… and so emphasizes incredible discoveries and scientific advances. The images and data are pretty hard to argue with: Average world temperatures have risen in a parallel line with tonnage of burned fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Chasing Ice is an epic depiction of the fight against perpetual ignorance and disregard toward the consequences resulting from climate change. The delicate connections that bind glacial retreat thousands of miles away with the natural disasters that affect us in the United States slowly emerge as the film progresses, and remind us of the deeper connections people hold with the planet.

But don’t take my word for it: See it for yourself.



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