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United Nations Climate Report Warns Of Current, Future Changes To Oceans And Frozen Areas

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Monday, September 30, 2019 - 9:08am

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A big lead, or opening in the sea ice pack, in the eastern Beaufort Sea
Joe MacGrego/NASA
A big lead, or opening in the sea ice pack, in the eastern Beaufort Sea, as seen from a NASA Operation IceBridge survey flight on Apr. 14, 2018.

The latest Special Report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contains dire warnings for the Earth's oceans and frozen areas.

The findings directly affect 1.4 billion people living in mountain and coastal zones, and indirectly impact countess others.

The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate describes warmer, more acidic and less productive oceans; accelerating sea level rise; rapidly declining glaciers and ice sheets; and more frequent and severe coastal flooding events.

Permafrost expert Ted Schuur of Northern Arizona University was a lead author on the polar regions chapter. He said what we do now matters, with respect to permafrost areas and elsewhere.

"If we keep the world below two degrees, we lose 25% of the surface permafrost area. But if we do nothing, we lose 70% or more of the permafrost," said Schuur.

The Earth's permafrost stores the equivalent of twice the carbon in the atmosphere, around 10% of which could be released due to thawing.

Science Sustainability