Find Out How Much Arctic Sea Ice Each Individual Melts Every Year

Nov 05, 2016 04:24 AM EDT

Yes, you have caused -- and are causing -- a sizable chunk of the Arctic to melt into the warm ocean.

It can be difficult for most people to grasp how they are contributing to the demise of the environment. To help illustrate how everyone on the planet is responsible for at least part of the rapidly disappearing Arctic sea ice, scientists reveal how much each of us has melted as individuals.

According to a report from Los Angeles Times, a new study published in Science journal showed that every metric ton of carbon dioxide released into the air causes about three square meters of Arctic sea ice to disappear. At an individual level, it follows that the average American actually melts around 50 square meters of the ice sheets every single year.

Science Magazine puts it even more succinctly: in a span of 30 years, a family of four people in the United States would likely be responsible for the destruction of ice that's as big as a football field.

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"For us, this is really the first time that we do have an intuitive understanding of how our individual actions really contribute to global warming," lead author Dirk Notz, a climate scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, explained to Los Angeles Times. "So far, when we talked about global warming, it was always these very big numbers, like billions of tons of carbon dioxide - or very small numbers, like 0.1 degree of temperature change or something. But now suddenly, with this three-square-meter loss per ton of CO2, it gives a very, very concrete and intuitive understanding of how we all cause Arctic sea ice to melt."

Offering even more concrete examples, he said that a 2,500-mile drive in an average car causes the loss of three square meters of ice. A round-trip airplane trip from New York to London costs another three square meters of melted ice as well.

"Even for me as a climate scientist, climate change has always had this fairly abstract notion," Notz said. "And it was almost impossible, for myself, to figure out how my own actions make a difference. But now with these suddenly becomes very tangible."

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