Above you can see the sea ice extent so far (chart via Angry Bear). We’ve already crushed the 2007 record, and still have a week or so to go before hitting the usual minimum time.

It’s hard to think of anything to say about this, aside from the usual creeping panic, but I did have one thought. According to Climate Central, shippers are already cruising through the open Arctic lanes. (Also, oil companies are getting set to start drilling there as well. If climate change is to be prevented, they must be stopped.) But below you can see a picture of sea ice extent in 2007, the previous record low (I couldn’t find a good picture of 2012.)


You can see that the ice extent is anchored around northern Greenland and the big islands of northern Canada and Russia, and therefore the North Pole is not that far from the edge of the melt. Therefore it looks likely that the North Pole will become ice-free in the summer long before the entire Arctic does.

This isn’t a scientific point really, it’s a political one. A completely ice free North Pole could be the kind of climate Pearl Harbor-style event that shocks the system into action. Even though Republicans are now more committed to climate denial than ever, climate hawks should be ready to seize such a striking demonstration of the reality of what we’re facing. When it happens (and it looks like a matter of years), James Inhofe should be walloped with that fact every time he steps out of his door.

For some in-depth science on the subject, as well as a debunking of the usual denier caucus, see Climate Progress.


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Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanlcooper. Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at The Week. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, and The Nation.