Skeptics, when they are not claiming that the Arctic Sea ice is growing or staying the same ignore the implications of its disappearance by saying “So what if it melts?”
There are two reasons why it’s important, the first being less important than the second:
First, it is a clear indication that the earth is indeed warming.
Second, and most important, an ice-free Arctic will drastically alter the weather in the northern hemisphere where the majority of people live. To understand how the weather will be changed we need to know how the ice currently affects it and what would happen without it.
When the ice melts, it will expose open ocean water with the following chain reaction of effects:
1. White ice reflects sunlight making the Arctic colder than it would otherwise be. On the other hand the dark blue color of the open sea absorbs heat. This will make the newly opened waters, along with the air immediately over it, increase in temperature by several degrees.
2. Warmer water evaporates more increasing the amount of rain that falls down. Warmer air will also fuel those storms making them more intense.
3. The weather in the Arctic affects places further south such as Canada, the United States, and other areas in the Northern Hemisphere. These intensified storms will worsen flooding in those areas.
4. Intensified flooding will harm agriculture and city infrastructure which is not built to withstand such weather.
Any radical change in one portion of the Earth will inevitably have a chain reaction of effects on the rest of the planet. Those effects will, in turn, affect our civilization’s ability to grow food and maintain its urban infrastructure.