The Arctic will have ice-free summers within the next 30 years, according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The loss of Arctic sea ice during the summer months could have devastating effects on the ecosystem and wildlife.
Sea ice is frozen seawater that floats at the surface of the ocean.
While sea ice is supposed to melt during the summer and refreeze in the winter, climate change has caused the overall amount of ice to routinely shrink over the last few decades.
Based on 40 recent computer models from 21 research institutes, the new research shows that summer ice has lost 70% of its volume and 40% of its area since 1979.
In 2019, Arctic sea ice reached its second-lowest level on record.
While the exact timeline for the models differs, they all show a drastic decline in sea ice in the region. Even a significant reduction in carbon emissions would not prevent the loss of ice at this point.
The loss of Arctic sea ice poses a significant threat to wildlife. Some wildlife species, like polar bears and walruses, rely on sea ice to live and hunt on. Without it, they will be forced to move closer and closer to land, potentially encroaching on humans.
The erosion of sea ice is a visible example of climate change’s devastating impact on the environment, Greenpeace USA’s Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar told Global Citizen.
"Sea ice is so fundamental to the Arctic ecosystem that nearly all species are being impacted," he said. "The shrinking sea ice over the past few years has already caused some polar bears to starve to death, and many others are in poor health."
Hocevar also noted that the loss of sea ice is disrupting the lives of plankton, which seals, birds, fish, and whales rely on for food.
"These ecosystem-level impacts that climate change is causing right now are the kinds of wake-up calls that we cannot afford to ignore," he added.