Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

MOSAiC expedition in Arctic

The MOSAiC expedition's Eco and Ocean team near a lead next to ROV sampling. (Photo: Alfred-Wegener-Institut /Lianna Nixon/CC-BY 4.0) 

Scientist Who Spent Year at 'Epicenter' of Climate Crisis Warns World May Already Have Hit Arctic 'Tipping Point'

'Urgent' action is needed, atmospheric scientist Markus Rex said.

Andrea Germanos

The atmospheric scientist that led a major year-long Arctic research expedition said Tuesday that the world may have already hit one of the so-called climate "tipping points."

"The disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic is one of the first landmines in this minefield, one of the tipping points that we set off first when we push warming too far," said Markus Rex of the Alfred Wegener Institute, reports Agence France-Presse.

"And one can essentially ask if we haven't already stepped on this mine and already set off the beginning of the explosion," he added.

"If we keep going as we are then the Arctic will be ice-free in summer within a few decades and the world I just described will no longer exist."

"During the Mosaic expedition, the ice in the spring of 2020 receded more quickly than ever before on record," Rex said. "The expansion of the ice was only about half as large in the summer than decades ago and only about half as thick as during the times of [Norwegian explorer Fridtjof] Nansen and his expedition with Fram, a wooden sailboat, almost 130 years ago."

The time remaining to rein in the climate crisis and avert a scenario of an ice-free Arctic in the summer is limited, Rex said.

"It's urgent," he told DW.  "We probably still have a short, brief time window to save the summer Arctic sea ice."

Barring such action, Rex warned of "a cascade of further tipping pints in the climate system that could let our climate drift away from the current state it has."

"I think we still have that window, but we need to act quickly now," he stressed. "We need to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases drastically, and we need to do that during the next decade." He also called for a mid-century goal "at the latest" to be climate neutral.

The international, multidisciplinary team Rex led was comprised of hundreds of scientists representing over a dozen countries. The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) team set sail on the German research vessel Polarstern in September of 2019 to gather data from what Rex called "the epicenter of global climate change" and study "areas that are beyond anything we've ever seen before." The team returned in October last year with a trove of data including 1,000 ice samples.

As the expedition website explains:

The goal of the MOSAiC expedition was to take the closest look ever at the Arctic as the epicenter of global warming and to gain fundamental insights that are key to better understand global climate change. Hundreds of researchers from 20 countries were involved in this exceptional endeavor. Following in the footsteps of Fridtjof Nansen's ground-breaking expedition with his wooden sailing ship Fram in 1893-1896, the MOSAiC expedition brought a modern research icebreaker close to the north pole for a full year including for the first time in polar winter. The data gathered will be used by scientists around the globe to take climate research to a completely new level.

At a press conference in October when the expedition came to a close, Rex offered a grim assessment of the Arctic.

"This world is threatened," he said, adding that the "ice is dying."

"If we keep going as we are then the Arctic will be ice-free in summer within a few decades and the world I just described will no longer exist."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett ·


Open Letter Warns Trump's 'Big Lie' GOP Poses Existential Threat to Democracy

"Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the republic."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·


House Progressives: 'When We Said These Two Bills Go Together, We Meant It'

"Moving the infrastructure bill forward without the popular Build Back Better Act risks leaving behind working people, families, and our communities."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo