Arctic Sea Ice Hits Historic Low Just As Congress Moves Against Controls on Global Warming

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Shaye Wolf, (415) 632-5301 or swolf@biologicaldiversity.org

Arctic Sea Ice Hits Historic Low Just As Congress Moves Against Controls on Global Warming

SAN FRANCISCO - The National
Snow and Ice
Data Center reports that the extent of
Arctic sea ice for January 2011 was the lowest ever in the satellite
record for that month. In January 2011, Arctic sea-ice extent averaged just 5.23
million square miles (13.55 million square kilometers), the lowest January ice
extent since satellite records began in 1979. Air temperatures over much of the
Arctic were 4 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 6 degrees Celsius) above normal in
January. Meanwhile, earlier this week several members of Congress moved to block
or delay action to slow global warming.

"The evidence mounts daily that
climate change is here now, yet some members of Congress are digging their heads
deeper into the sands of denial, preferring to preserve polluters' profits over
the future of our planet," said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the
Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute.

Polar bears, ice seals,
walruses and other Arctic animals rely on the sea ice for survival. Arctic
sea ice also plays a critical role in regulating our global climate by
reflecting sunlight and keeping the polar regions cool; it has declined
dramatically over the past 30 years.

According to the Data Center,
January's sea-ice extent was 19,300 square miles (50,000 square kilometers)
below the record low of 5.25 million square miles (13.60 million square
kilometers) set in 2006, and 490,000 square miles (1.27 million square
kilometers) below the 1979 to 2000 average - a 9-percent decline.

The news comes in the same week that new House Energy
and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) unveiled draft legislation to repeal Clean
Air Act protections aimed at slowing the buildup of dangerous carbon dioxide
pollution; Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced legislation to exempt greenhouse
gas pollution from any regulation under the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act,
National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act and other bedrock
environmental laws; and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced a
bill
to delay EPA's implementation of Clean Air Act protections to
reduce carbon emissions.

"We possess the technological innovation to curb
greenhouse pollution and slow global warming now. New and
updated Clean Air Act standards for CO2, methane and nitrous oxide
will spur additional technological innovation, create jobs, save lives and slow
the melting of the Arctic sea ice - but only if Congress gets out of the way,"
said Wolf.

In
January researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey in Alaska reported they had
tracked a female polar bear's record nine-day swim to reach an ice floe 426
miles offshore. The bear lost 22 percent of her body weight and her year-old
cub. Polar bears and other species are struggling to survive as they lose the
sea ice they need for hunting, resting and raising their young.

Sea-ice extent in January 2011
remained unusually low in Hudson Bay, an important habitat for the polar bear.
Normally Hudson Bay freezes over by late November, but this year the Bay did not
completely freeze over until mid-January.

Also last week, 18 of the nation's leading climate
scientists, including members of the National Academy of Sciences, wrote to Congress highlighting
the urgency of the risks and consequences of delaying action on global warming.
They said: "Climate change is underway and the severity of the risks we face is
compounded by delay."

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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