American Shores Face Threat of Rising Sea Level

"The Arctic is fundamentally changing in character, and we're going to continue this downward trend and eventually reach the point when we have entire sea-ice melts during the summertime," said Walt Meier, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

His organization warned that the global consequences for a planet without sea ice were major, explaining that the Arctic region "acts as a giant air conditioner for the planet, helping stabilize global temperature and weather patterns in lower latitudes, like the jet stream."

Using a NASA computer model, the NRDC links Arctic melts to wheat farming in Kansas, projecting that without ice covers, the state would be 4 degrees warmer in the winter, which would hurt wheat farmers who rely on freezing temperatures to grow their crops. Kansas summers would face drier crop soil sapped of 10 percent of its moisture.

"These findings offer a startling view of climate change in the Arctic and the profound impact it may already be having on the future of the entire planet," said Richard Moss, vice president for WWF's Climate Change Program and previously head of the CCSP coordination office, in a statement.

Moss continued, "World governments just concluded two weeks of climate treaty negotiations in Poland with a disappointing lack of progress. As negotiations continue over the course of the coming year, this report should provide a much-needed sense of urgency to help reach agreement next December in Copenhagen.

ABC News Clayton Sandell and Angus Hines contributed to the reporting in this report.

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