Scientists reported that burning all of the Earth’s fossil fuels would initiate enough warming to melt the Antarctic ice shelf submerging coastal regions worldwide. New York City and Washington DC would be of the first to go under as sea levels rise.
ANTARCTICA IS NOT LIKE A MELTING ICE CUBE
An international team of scientists led by Ken Caldeira, a researcher at Stanford College’s Carnegie Institute of Science and Ricarda Winkelmann, a professor of climate systems analysis at Potsdam Institute For Climate Impact Research used an up-to-date model of an ice sheet to forecast the impact that fossil fuel burning would have on the Earth in upcoming centuries. Analysis showed that burning the world’s supply of coal, oil, and gas would emit enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to melt the Antarctic ice sheet and possibly parts of the larger East Antarctic Ice Sheet.
Scientists say that the sea level could rise 100 feet over next 1000 years. They project that the total rise would be 200 feet once the sheet has fully melted. If you consider that Hurricane Katrina’s highest storm surge was 27.8 feet, these statistics are frightening to hear. London, Paris, New York, Tokyo and other coastal cities would be obliterated. This would also have catastrophic effects on the surrounding ecosystems.
PORTENTOUS FINDS OF THE CARBON STUDY
The study noted that while Antarctica has already begun to melt, the ice sheet’s future mass balance is unknown due to a combination of factors: future emissions of greenhouse gases; atmospheric warming; and oceanic warming that results from atmospheric warming.
Climate policy makers have determined a 2 degree Celsius increase as a target for global warming. According to scientists, if we stay within this target, sea levels will rise only a few meters, which would be manageable.
REDUCING THE WORLD’S CARBON FOOTPRINT
“Our findings show that if we do not want to melt Antarctica, we can’t keep taking fossil fuel carbon out of the ground and just dumping it into the atmosphere as CO2 like we’ve been doing,” Caldeira said.
Often, when we are warned about years-away dangers like the melting of Antarctica, we think, “Well, it’s not going to happen in my lifetime.” A handful of bumper sticker slogans about saving the planet could be inserted here. But let’s just end this discussion by being more mindful of our actions. Turn off the lights when you leave, drink from reusable water bottles instead of plastic, walk or ride a bike whenever possible, and recycle. These are easy, painless habits we can adopt in order to help reduce the world’s carbon footprint.
The research was presented in an article published by Science Advances.