Tuesday, April 22, 2014

World as Classroom: Greenland is Melting

By Joseph Farley
Most climate scientists have known for decades that Greenland is melting. However, the second largest ice-sheet on the planet is melting more rapidly than anyone could have anticipated. “We're seeing an acceleration of ice loss," Michael Bevis, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University and co-author of a new study on Greenland’s melting ice sheet, told USA Today. "Now, there's more ice leaving than snow arriving."

This is very dangerous, especially for global sea level rise. Between 2003 and 2012, data showed, the northeast region of Greenland’s ice sheet retreated 12.4 miles following a three-year stretch of particularly high temperatures. The melting ice dumped 10 billion tons of water into the ocean every year during that time.

Shane Smith, co-founder of Vice, recently visited Greenland for his documentary special that runs on HBO. What he witnessed shocked him, to see the sheets of ice breaking off in real time. Smith said, “People can understand the majority of the world’s cities being underwater. When you can see that happening, hundreds of tons of ice calving by the minute, then I think it gives a visual representation of what’s happening. The fact that Antarctica is following suit is terrifying.”

The scale on which it’s happening also amazed Smith, and we are six years ahead of the worst case scenario put out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC’s latest report also highlights the potential serious effects on our water, wildlife, and the sustainability of the world economy. Policy makers need to come to terms and agree that the worst is yet to come, and this should no longer be up for debate. In order to at least stall the dangerous results of climate change we need to cut our emissions in a major way. This is not what’s happening, however, as our overall emissions are going up.

Many people only believe something when they actually see it happening and the situation in Greenland is a great example of visual change. It’s not a matter of if at this point, as most climate scientists just aren’t sure of exactly when. If Greenland’s ice sheets melt away completely it’s predicted to create a sea level rise of around twenty feet, which would create devastating consequences for major cities near the coastlines and the way of life as we know it.

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