Antarctica’s heatwaves are a warning to humanity – and we have only a narrow window to save the planet-Climate scientists

As harsh weather occurs more frequently than scientists had anticipated, Antarctica’s sea ice levels are decreasing.

At present, Antarctica is undergoing tremendous changes at previously unheard-of rates, as evidenced by frequent extreme occurrences. These include the recent autumn heatwave and circum-Antarctic summer heatwaves, both of which saw temperatures climb by up to 40C. Furthermore, the extent of the sea ice has decreased to record lows both this winter and previous summer. Even more quickly than scientists had anticipated, these changes have taken place.

These modifications fit into a larger worldwide pattern of extreme air and sea surface temperatures, wildfires, floods, disease, and other occurrences that have a significant negative influence on ecosystems and society. Since the publication of the first report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in the early 1990s, scientists have been warning the public about the effects of global climate change. The Antarctic community has done this numerous times as well. These cautions are now coming to pass.

Antarctica is an essential part of the Earth’s system and a watchdog on accelerating change. As scientists studying the Antarctic, we observe evidence of mounting change, such as shifting food webs, swift population change, breeding failure, and local ecosystem collapse. We also anticipate rapid transformation of a region that makes our planet habitable and makes extraordinary contributions to global biodiversity.

The global ecology, future generations, and our well-being are all at stake at this crucial juncture. We urgently urge nations to accelerate and go beyond their present promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in light of this information. To get to net zero and beyond it, there needs to be a sudden surge in ambition. Promises are insufficient.

The activities taking place in Antarctica are not confined to the continent. Over the last five years, heatwaves, wildfires, floods, and droughts around the world have smashed record after record. Significant hazards also come from illnesses like avian influenza (H5N1 bird flu), which has affected 81 nations in the past two years.

Change has been seen around the world, according to the IPCC and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. This change has an effect on society, infrastructure, populations, species, ecosystems, and the environment, on which humans are completely dependent.

Changes occurring simultaneously in Antarctica, the Southern Ocean, and other parts of the world show how closely connected Antarctica is to the rest of the Earth system. A healthy and functional Antarctica is essential to both our present and future. As a result, the alarming changes in Antarctica provide us both a warning and a chance. This chance lies in realizing that by protecting Antarctica, slowing down change there, and ultimately stopping it, we contribute to securing a future for ourselves, our families, and our livelihoods. This requires both political will and civil society participation. But it also calls for the efforts of scientists to help us prepare for what is to come, to comprehend the effects of our activities, to create fresh methods for reducing change’s impact and adapting to it, and to help us comprehend the hazards we face and their time frames. It is evident that the group of scientists gathered in Tautahi, Christchurch, is making an effort and is prepared to make further efforts. They aspire for political decision-makers to pay attention to them and act.

Numerous participants in a recent meeting of specialists from more than 20 nations in Tautahi Christchurch presented ground-breaking results that revealed amazing changes in Antarctic species, communities, and ecosystems. Genuine concern and, in some cases, shock at the speed of these system-wide responses were expressed in response to these revelations.

The speeches of renowned Mori historians Sir Tipene O’Regan and Dr. Michael Stevens of Ngi Tahu, who both emphasized the significance of Mori historical connections with the Southern Ocean as well as concerns and aspirations for its future, added to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research’s (Scar) biology symposium.

The range of the strange events in Antarctica goes beyond merely biological systems. Other records have also been broken, with this year’s sea ice levels reaching previously unheard-of lows, per the satellite record. Last year, an alarming, widespread heatwave affected a sizable portion of Antarctica, raising temperatures there in some places by 35 to 40 degrees Celsius above long-term averages.

Other regions of the continent, notably the Antarctic peninsula, have seen extreme temperature episodes.

The scientific community in attendance was uneasy as the symposium conference developed and the research findings were revealed. The present experts felt obligated to publish a group communiqué in reaction to the new information, expressing profound worries about the growing environmental issues occurring throughout the Antarctic continent.

There isn’t much time left for change. We have seen and recorded events in the Antarctic, and our research’s projections indicate that the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Now is the perfect time to take important action. Our future for generations will be determined by what we do today. Everyone of us deserves a better future. Together, we can change things.

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