By Huck Fairman
While we worry about new strains of the virus and rising prices, recent environmental reports in the news reveal that we have other major changes to respond to.
Namely while science has been aware of the of the planet’s warming at the poles, the most recent data warns that the warming is accelerating at both the Arctic and Antarctic poles. This is predicted to lead to increased and more rapid sea level rise – rise that could be as much as 10 feet. (Picture that along the coasts that we know.) And this likelihood presents not a mere nuisance along coastlines, but could be the largest change on the planet that civilization has witnessed.
With half of all sea ice already melted, the reflectivity of that ice, which had formerly helped maintain global temperatures, is gone. In the Arctic, what sea ice remains has been thinner, and the snow cover in the region has been the third lowest since records have been kept. Significant changes will continue to follow and expand.
In the Last Ice Age, the ocean levels were 300 feet lower than today. This very stark statistic warns that the planet has, and can again, undergo vast changes. Millions of people who live along the coastlines will face rising sea levels and changing coastlines, so that presumably they will have to move – but to where?
This degree of change was not widely anticipated as recently as in the 1990s. But now both simple observation and data show us that our global climate changes are increasing rapidly.
Where are these changes most visible? Both in the Arctic and Antarctic. Rain, for the first time ever, was observed in Greenland. The thinner Arctic sea ice holds less volume, which contributes to rising sea levels. In Antarctica the huge Thwaites Glacier, no longer protected by an ice shelf, may melt and break up, possibly in five years, contributing substantially to even more global ocean level rise. Thus melting ice is now a worldwide phenomenon, affecting sea ice, ocean levels, the poles, and glaciers.
In the Arctic, this warming is allowing increased shipping north of the North American continent, but that shipping, with its fuel expenditures, spills, and garbage is adding to the warming. These changes are also impacting the wildlife in northern Canada, reducing food supplies and changing the wild life – even bringing beavers into the region. Additionally, the shipping noises adversely affect local sea mammals, and reduce fishing possibilities for the local human populations.
In Siberia, the warming and drying conditions have permitted in the last several years vast wildfires across the tundra. In short, we are witnessing a circular catastrophe.
While previously, some scientists were hesitant to attribute these changes to global warming resulting from fossil fuel usage, now both data and modeling point to those very sources. The resulting question has become more urgent: Will we make the changes we need to?