A Farewell to Ice

by Peter Wadhams (2017)

Wadhams is an Arctic expert at the University of Cambridge.  This book summarizes his scientific observations after numerous field trips over many decades.  With the possible exception of Russia's Natalia Shakova, Wadhams is the world's leading authority on Arctic ice.  His conclusions are therefore highly significant.  These include:

  • All known Arctic feedbacks are positive.  There appear to be no natural processes to stop the slide of summer ice to "oblivion" (p. 84).
  • The most serious feedback is decreased albedo (reflectivity) as white ice is replaced by dark water.  This decrease has the same warming effect as several decades of CO2 emissions.  (p. 4)
  • A tipping point was reached in 2005, when summer ice disappeared over Siberian ice shelves.  This allowed the water temperature to rise above 0°C, raising the possibility of massive methane releases from seabed hydrates.  (p. 121)
  • In Wadhams' youth, observational data was "automatically accepted as valid".  Today the situation is disturbingly different: "If a forecast based on observations gives a result which appears alarming to scientists who look mainly at models, then some scientists seem to ignore it, and may replace it with predictions made by a computer model which may have already failed." (p. 87)  He refers to this as "mental self-censorship". (p. 155)  In Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four it is called "crimestop" because it prevents dangerous thought crimes.
  • Reducing emissions is not sufficient: "... even if a drastic and immediate effort is made to cut emissions, significant geoengineering and CO2 removal operations will need to begin around 2020, with up to 20 gigatons of CO2 extracted each year by 2100 to keep the global temperature increase below 2 ° C."  (p. 188)
  • The IPCC has behaved in a deceptive and irresponsible manner with respect to Arctic ice disappearance and the possibility of calamitous methane releases.

Also see this video of an interview with Wadhams.