It is too often taken for granted in discussions of climate that Arctic sea and Antarctic land ice are rapidly disappearing, with ominous implications. Reality is not so simple. You can see satellite data on polar ice coverage since 1979 at The National Snow and Ice Data Center website. The bottom line: The Arctic is declining somewhat, the Antarctic is not; and both regions are frozen solid every winter.
What really matters with climate, a point alarmists are more prone to lecture others on than to take into consideration themselves, is longer-term fluctuations. Good satellite sea ice data only goes back to 1979, which marked the end of a mid-20th century cooling trend. So it is not surprising that Arctic ice has since been shrinking back toward the levels of the 1940s. The shortness of the record and the overlap with a previous cycle makes it hard to distinguish natural and manmade causes.
In any case melting of sea ice, which much Arctic ice is, is not a big deal for the catastrophic sea level rise we’re often threatened with because it is already displacing a lot of water simply by floating in it. If all the ice on land, which much Antarctic ice is along with the Greenland ice cap, were to melt the matter might be quite different. But the fact is that ice, like so much in climate, expands and contracts in very complex cycles and an ice-free Arctic, should it occur, would not be unprecedented.
It was possible to navigate the fabled northwest passage in the 1940s and early in this century; it was not possible in the great age of exploration because the Earth was then entering the Little Ice Age whose beginning, and indeed end, can hardly be ascribed to human agency. We also know that the Earth was a warmer during the Roman and earlier Holocene warm periods than it has been recently without catastrophic inundation or, indeed, the death of the polar bear.