Jul 15, 2019 | Updated: 10:46 AM EDT

Politician Says Melting Sea Ice is a Good Thing, Climate Change Experts Disagree

May 09, 2019 10:24 AM EDT

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently stated that the diminishing levels of sea ice in the Arctic is a good thing. He went on record in a press conference in Finland, stating that there will be economic opportunities. Pompeo said in his remarks, "The Arctic is at the forefront of opportunity and abundance. It houses 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil, 30 percent of its undiscovered gas, an abundance of uranium, rare earth minerals, gold, diamonds, and millions of square miles of untapped resources, fisheries galore."

These statements came on the same day the UN released a report saying that one million species were now at risk of going extinct due to human action and climate change. He continued: "Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade. This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days. Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st century Suez and Panama Canals."

Assistant professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences from the University of Mary Washington, Dr. Pamela Grothe said that Polar regions are important for regulating global temperatures. "Sea ice is highly reflective and when it melts, it exposes more ocean surface to absorb the sun's energy, causing even more warming. This will then accelerate even more sea ice loss."

The Ice Data Center  and National Snow stated last week that in April it has seen a record low when it comes to sea ice extent. The sea ice loss was very rapid at the beginning of the month because of a decline in the Sea of Okhotsk. It slowed down after this because of the gain in the extent of the Bering and Barents Seas. However, daily ice extent remained at record low levels throughout the month.

The problem with the rapid melting of sea ice is not just that the Earth will get warmer, however, it's also about how millions of species will be affected, especially those that call these regions their home. Peter T. Fretwell of the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement, "From a biological point of view the loss of sea-ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic is starting to have severe consequences for many of the animal population that depend upon this unique environment." He continued, "In Antarctica, the situation is complex, sea ice has increased in some areas but decline rapidly in others. The pattern has become more extreme; in 2014 we had a record high winter sea-ice extent, but since 2016 we have had record lows, with early 2019 being the lowest sea-ice extent ever recorded around the continent."

According to the US Global Change Research Program, the "loss of ice increases the risk of erosion along coastlines and changes the presence of marine species in certain areas, affecting commercial fish stocks and the economies of some coastal towns." Fretwell added that "There are many species that live on and rely on the sea ice. In the Antarctic, Emperor and Adelie penguins and four species of seals depend on the floating ice. The sea ice is also a critical nursery for krill-the prey item which is the staple of almost all higher predators in the Southern Ocean."

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