Arctic Melting Increasing, As Are Costs Of Dealing With It

A glacier calves icebergs off the Greenland ice sheet in August 2017. Photo: David Goldman, The Associated Press

A team of scientists studying Greenland’s ice mass reviewed data going back as far as 1972 for the first time, which allowed them to look at longer trends, and learned that even though there might be more snow in some years, the glaciers (large ice masses on the land) are still being negatively impacted by warming, according to a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  Moreover, once a glacier reaches the point where it dislodges from its bedrock, it melts quickly, proving that glaciers have a larger impact of Greenland’s ice loss than previously believed.

  • According to one of the study’s authors, glaciers  “[o]nce you push these glaciers out of equilibrium because of a large warming wave, it’s difficult to bring them back to where they were before…It’s almost like the damage has already been done.”
  • If all of Greenland’s ice melts into the ocean, Popular Science explains that global sea levels would rise by around 24 feet.  At a six-foot sea level rise, most of the world’s coastal cities would be flooded with water, and 650 million people would be displaced.

A second study published this week in the journal Nature Communications lays out the significance of this increased Arctic melting. The fact that warming is accelerating “may add nearly $70 trillion to the overall costs of climate change — even if the world meets the Paris Agreement climate targets, according to the study.  

  • Arctic warming is happening twice as fast as warming in other regions — causing the permafrost there to melt and that results in a feedback loop that leads to even more melting.
  • The study also finds that while there may be some benefits that are experienced in the warming Arctic, such as shorter shipping routes and the opportunity for more mineral resource extraction, the economic losses are significantly greater than the economic benefits of those gains.

Why This Matters:  The impacts of climate change are going to hit us sooner than most citizens realize.  Because the glaciers are carrying ice out of Greenland’s core nearly twice as fast now as they did in the 1990s or 2000s, we need to start adapting to sea level rise in our coastal cities.  One of the scientists involved in the Greenland glacier study put it this way: “The forces of nature at play here are very, very big, and we should not underestimate them.” While the U.S. may be sleepwalking through this Arctic warming news, more than 1000 climate protesters have been arrested in London so far and the disruptions are expected to continue.  And the British Labour Party member Ed Miliband said the protesters were right, “[t]he truth is the planet is warming far faster than we are acting.” But the protests there may be working — The Washington Post reports that the British government will soon announce a target of net zero emissions by 2050.

Climate protesters in the British Parliament strip down to make a point.  Photo: Fox News

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