A view of icebergs calving from Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica in 2014. Researchers found that total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100. Photo credit: Jim Yungel / NASAAndy Rowell, Oil Change International | March 31, 2016 10:33 am | CommentsIt is no longer a question of “if” the unthinkable happens, but a question of “when.” And the “when” could happen sooner than you think.
For decades climate scientists have been worried about what happens if the vast West Antarctic ice sheet melts.
The melting of the ice-sheet, which is greater than the size of Mexico, has always been seen as somewhat of a doomsday scenario as it has to the potential to rise sea level by several meters. This is due to the fact that much of the ice-sheet sits on the ground, rather than floats.
Scientists have known about the threat for decades. As the respected British environmental journalist, Paul Brown, wrote 20 years ago in his book Global Warming—Can Civilization Survive?: If the West Antarctic Ice sheet melted “it could add between 4 and 7 m (13-23 feet) to sea level rise … such figures appear to create the potential for a series of large-scale catastrophes.”
By its very nature, any sea level rise of this nature would be catastrophic—wiping out most coastal cities and low-lying areas.
Maybe because the thought is so unthinkable, it has been easy to dismiss. The deniers and climate skeptics have long responded that this kind of speculation was scaremongering.
The other source of comfort is that even in their worst nightmare scenarios, scientists thought that this would happen over a period of hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
But not any more.
Scientists now believe that that the vast ice sheet is melting much more quickly than before, in part due to rising air temperatures as well as rising sea-temperatures.
Yesterday a paper, published in the prestigious journal Nature predicted that “Antarctica has the potential to contribute more than a metre of sea-level rise by 2100.”
Added to melting ice in other regions, this means that sea level rise could be some five to six feet higher by the end of this century.
As the New York Times reports: “That is roughly twice the increase reported as a plausible worst-case scenario by a United Nations panel just three years ago and so high it would likely provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today.”
Global Climate Change