The melting of Arctic sea ice may seem like an intangible, far-off problem, but what if there was a way to know how much you are personally contributing to the melt? A new study, released today in the journal Science, allows you to do precisely that.
The study makes a direct link between the amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions and sea ice loss, finding that for each metric ton of CO2 emitted during the period between 1953 and 2012, roughly 32 square feet of sea ice was lost.
The study’s authors, climate scientists Dirk Notz and Julienne Stroeve, applied this finding to per capita emissions data from 2013 for each country, and found that the average person causes the loss of hundreds of feet of sea ice each year. But the U.S. and other high-emitting countries like Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are not average. Americans, for instance, have a personal footprint of as much as 645 square feet of ice loss. China, a large emitter but with a massive population, has lower per-capita emissions, with up to 322 square feet of ice loss per person.