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On Crossing The Scary Threshold

Antarctic sea ice is gradually melting, hitting its lowest levels ever recorded in February 2023. Never before has there been so little ice in the Antarctic sea. Scientists have expressed serious concern over the scenario, saying that the sea shall be ice-free in the next few years, if this continues.

While analysing satellite images, researchers at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) of the University of Colorado Boulder found that the ice sheets, floating on the Antarctic sea on February 12, covered an area of 1.79sqkm. Previously, the least amount of ice (1.92sqkm) floating on the Antarctic sea was recorded on February 25, 2022. Scientists have been monitoring the melting of polar ice through satellite images since 1979.

According to an article recently published in The Guardian, it is the first time when there is so little amount of ice in the Antarctic sea. A section of scientists has blamed Global Warming for this situation. They are of the opinion that even strong sunlight cannot melt the ice in polar regions, as white sea ice bounces up to 90% of the Sun’s energy back into space. However, pollution and the warming have triggered the melting. In case of melting, the white ice is replaced by dark, unfrozen sea, and the water absorbs a similar percentage of the Sun’s heat instead. Scientists have explained that the thick ice sheets also help avoid sea storms in the South Pole. Hence, the coastal areas of the region have become vulnerable due to the melting of the ice. However, melting sea ice has no discernible impact on sea levels, because it is already in ocean water.

Commenting on the issue, Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences (CIRES), stressed: “Antarctica’s response to Climate Change has been different from the Arctic’s. The downward trend in sea ice may be a signal that Global Warming is finally affecting the floating ice around Antarctica, but it will take several more years to be confident of it.” He further said that melting of the sea ice was a serious issue, as it would help accelerate Global Warming.

In a separate development, the UN member countries have agreed to protect the sea life after decades-long discussions. Representatives of the member countries held a special meeting in New York on March 6, 2023 to discuss this issue. As the UN agreed on a historic deal to protect oceans after two weeks of intense talks, Chair of the conference Rena Lee announced: “The ship has reached the shore.” This is the first international treaty for protecting the High Seas.

According to social workers, the world body has taken 15 years to reach an agreement, as the issue of protecting marine biodiversity is being looked at with importance, finally. It is to be noted that the UN member countries signed a historic agreement in December 2022, and all the members agreed on that accord on March 6, 2023. As per the deal, around 30% of the Earth’s land and water would be conserved by 2030. Greenpeace’s Laura Meller reportedly stated: “This is a historic day for conservation and a sign that in a divided world, protecting nature and people can triumph over Geopolitics.

The UN would formally adopt the accord soon. Before that, a team of legal experts would look into the rules, and the accord would be translated into six languages. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres told the delegates that the agreement was a “victory for multilateralism and for global efforts to counter the destructive trends facing ocean health, now and for generations to come”.

Experts have explained that High Seas begin at 370km from the coast, and these parts do not fall within the jurisdiction of any country. Nearly 60% of the world’s marine area is deep sea. Although it covers almost half of the Earth’s surface, statesmen are not at all concerned about deep seas and their environment. Scientists estimate that roughly half of the oxygen production on the Earth comes from the ocean. The majority of this production is from oceanic plankton, like drifting plants, algae, and some bacteria, which can photosynthesise. One particular species, Prochlorococcus, is the smallest photosynthetic organism on the Earth. Seas and oceans also absorb toxic carbon dioxide.

Unfortunately, Climate Change, Pollution and fishing-related activities have started posing a serious threat to marine biodiversity. Currently, just 1% of the deep seas is protected. The UN treaty would help create larger protected areas for marine life in international waters.

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