‘People Didn’t Listen to Our Warnings’: Scientists Say It’s Too Late to Save Arctic Summer 

By: Paige Bennett

June 7, 2023

Even with dramatic shifts in emissions, summer sea ice in the Arctic is doomed. A new analysis has found that even greatly and swiftly reducing greenhouse gas emissions will not prevent the disappearance of sea ice in September over the coming decades. Researchers predict the first summer without Arctic sea ice will happen in the 2030s, about a decade earlier than previously estimated.

The scientists found that about 90% of the ice loss is from human activities. Sea ice has also been on a sharp decline since 2000, according to the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications.

  • “Our observationally-constrained projections based on attribution results also suggest that we may experience an unprecedented ice-free Arctic climate in the next decade or two, irrespective of emission scenarios,” the study authors wrote. “This would affect human society and the ecosystem both within and outside the Arctic, through changing Arctic marine activities as well as further accelerating the Arctic warming and thereby altering Arctic carbon cycling.”

According to NASA, Arctic sea ice in the summer is shrinking 12.6% per decade from global warming compared to average summer sea ice extent in 1981 to 2010.

The authors of the study used climate modeling and satellite analysis, comparing observed and modeled changes to sea ice year-round from 1979 to 2019. They found declines across three different sets of observations as well as all model simulations, particularly in warmer seasons. In simulations, the researchers found the strongest melting in September to October. Some of their projections also showed possibilities for an ice-free Arctic in other parts of the year.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) previously predicted a loss of summer Arctic sea ice by the 2050s without emissions cuts in a high-emissions scenario.

“Unfortunately it has become too late to save Arctic summer sea ice,” said Dirk Notz, study author and professor at University of Hamburg, Germany, as reported by The Guardian. “As scientists, we’ve been warning about the loss of Arctic summer sea ice for decades. This is now the first major component of the Earth system that we are going to lose because of global warming. People didn’t listen to our warnings.”

Notz also warned that this shows that other projections are also likely to start becoming reality in the coming decades.