The Arctic, perhaps more than any other place on Earth right now, is a climate front line. Our common future as a civilization is tied to the future of this region, because what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic.
As world leaders prepare for the long-awaited Climate Change Summit in New York, climate scientists prepare for the day when the Arctic sea ice reaches its lowest point this year. The sea ice that covers the North Pole is disappearing at a stunning rate, which means the annual sea ice minimum has become one of the most closely watched indicators of the unfolding climate crisis.
It wasn't supposed to melt this fast.
The same goes for the Greenland ice sheet. This gigantic mass of ice was melting about six times faster in the past decade than just the decade before. Some scientists now suggest that we may be awakening this sleeping giant, and it's not going back to bed.
Both these events, along with the Arctic permafrost melt and ocean acidification, can have devastating global implications, with stronger warming, rising sea levels and more extreme weather for us all.
Every new tonne of oil, coal or gas we burn, or forest we destroy, means more stress for the Arctic and higher risks for us all. Every tonne takes us closer to the tipping point, beyond which certain impacts can start spiralling out of control, and our action will no longer matter.
Yet, the Arctic is the least protected area on the planet. Oil companies are rushing to the melting area to drill for more oil as if they had another planet to go to once they are done plundering this one.
Luckily, people are not just standing by and letting this happen. The Arctic has become the front line of one of the most iconic fights of our generation. It's a fight where millions of people from around the world are joining forces and drawing a line in the ice, telling oil companies to back off.
As Greenpeace joins the Climate Summit in New York, it will deliver a message from nearly six million Arctic defenders: the Arctic is our common heritage and it must be protected, not exploited. We need an Arctic Sanctuary at the top of the world. We have already found more oil than we can ever burn, and now this madness must end. The age of fossil fuels is over.
We are asking our leaders to show true leadership and stop funding fossil fuels with public money which could be spent on health care, housing and job training programs; commit to phasing out fossil fuels in our energy systems; set short-term targets that pave the way to a renewable energy future, and support the poor and vulnerable who are already confronting the ravages of climate reality. In addition, we are asking them to protect the Arctic from any oil drilling and industrial fishing.
And we won't take no for an answer. The sleeping giant that is awakening are the masses of people worldwide who are starting to organize themselves, realizing that casting ballots every 4 years is just not enough. They are taking back the streets and demanding climate action. This is bringing momentum to the climate movement, which can no longer be ignored by governments or big business.
That power is already stopping coal plants and coal mines around the world. It is stalling oil pipelines, shifting money away from fossil fuel investments and protecting magnificent forests. People's demand for clean energy, air, water and health has become a force for change. The millions of solar panels and community-owned windmills installed around the world are building the future we want and deserve. The alternative paradigm is increasingly challenging the current status quo. It no longer looks like a distant dream - a green, just and peaceful future is within our grasp.
These are exceptional times. Exceptional times require exceptional leaders. There are truly alarming signs of climate change spiraling out of control. The world experienced unprecedented high impact climate extremes during the last decade. At the same time, the world has witnessed an unprecedented breakthrough of renewable energy, while the coal and oil industries' power is eroding. The multiple crises the world faces today -- climate, food, water, financial -- call for strong leadership that speeds up the clean energy revolution and puts an end to our fossil fuel addiction.
Can we find such leaders in New York?
This post is part of a month-long series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with a variety of events being held in September recognizing the threats posed by climate change. Those events include the UN's Climate Summit 2014 (to be held Sept. 23, 2014, at UN headquarters in New York) and Climate Week NYC (Sept. 22-28, 2014, throughout New York City). To see all the posts in the series, read here.