An Open Letter to Santa About Climate Change

An Open Letter to Santa About Climate Change

Dear Mr. Claus,

I know you’re busy this time of year, so I’ll get right to the point. Your jolly workshop is in a pretty vulnerable location as climate changes, so I hope that you, Mrs. Claus, the reindeer, and the elves are doing what you can to stay resilient.

Maybe you’ve heard that the Arctic is warming faster than other areas of the planet. On average, the region is about 5°C (9°F)  warmer than usual according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This week’s North Pole weather forecast is 28°C (50°F) above normal. It was abnormally warm last year at this time as well. In a warming climate, record warm weather is getting more common.

Check out how Arctic sea ice has changed. The top image shows the amount of sea ice in Sepetember 1984. The bottom image shows the sea ice in September 2016. Ice shown in white is older than ice shown in gray, which means it’s thicker and more resistant to melt.

Credit: NASA/Goddard

As the Arctic warms, sea ice - the frozen seawater foundation of your North Pole workshop - is shrinking.  This means that your workshop might eventually sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Okay, now, please try not to panic. I know that the thought of your life’s work falling into the ocean must be unsettling, but there is a lot that you can do to stay safe and ensure that you always make your December deadline.

For example, you can make a plan to adapt to climate change. Have you considered a floating North Pole workshop? Cities and countries around the world are making plans to adapt as climate changes. As you are making your plan, you might get ideas from U.S. city and state adaptation plans at the Georgetown Climate Center.

Sometimes adapting to climate change means picking up and moving. If you decide that’s the way to go, then I’d suggest the South Pole where your workshop would be on the continent of Antarctica instead of sea ice. The U.S. South Pole Research Station is there, so you’d have scientists as neighbors. Like the North Pole, it’s chilly enough to wear your red suit year-round. In fact, scientists in the U.S. Antarctic program also wear red coats, so you’d fit right in.

Antarctica is not immune to climate change either. The amount of sea ice in November was a million square kilometers less than the previous record low and there’s new evidence that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might be breaking apart from the inside, so you might want to look into that before moving your whole operation.

The other thing that you can do is to is to help stop climate change from happening. This is called climate mitigation, and in some ways you are already doing it. It involves keeping heat-trapping greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Powering your sleigh with flying reindeer instead of fossil fuels means that you drive a zero emissions vehicle. That’s great! (Those reindeer do burp and fart methane, however, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Feeding them lichen instead of food pellets can cut down on their emissions.)

Okay, so you are probably now wishing that I just asked for a present instead of asking you to make plans for climate adaptation and mitigation. I’m sorry about that. It’s hard to be the bearer of hard truths. I just want to make sure you and the reindeer and elves and Mrs. Claus are jolly for years to come.

Happy holidays to you all!