Our earth is changing. There is more carbon dioxide in our air than ever before and it’s wreaking havoc on our ecosystems. From our agriculture to species survival, we are all connected and deeply affected by these changes. Now here is something to consider: our glaciers are melting, and they’re melting fast.
Thinning Ice in the Arctic Ocean
Some scientists say that over the next 100 years our seas will rise about 6 feet. Some scientists argue that sea level rise is slowing down. It can seem confusing to sort through the contradictory data because we expect scientific studies and predictions to be valid. However, there is no denying that change is happening, and not all of it is good.
Climate change is real and we are responsible. There is no way to explain uncontrollable weather, typhoons, tsunamis, hurricanes, without addressing human impact. Storms and weather-related disasters are hitting our shores and often the poorest countries, have to deal with the worst damage. Compounded with overpopulation and poverty, communities in places such as the Phillippines, India, and Haiti are being destroyed.
How does this relate to glaciers? Well, glacier melting in the arctic, notably Greenland, is resulting in tons of extra water in our oceans and seas. When combined with thermal expansion, the heating and expansion of water, glacier melt is contributing to the creation of deadly storms. Below is an image that displays some of the effects of climate change. We have unfortunately seen many of these changes worldwide over the past few years.
Over 6 million people in Nigeria were displaced in 2012 because of increasingly destructive floods. Late last summer India’s monsoon season was one of the worst, leading to flooding rivers, and homelessness for millions. Superstorm Sandy killed over 250 people, flooded homes, and revealed that we were not prepared to handle such a heavy storm. Countries are being forced to deal with crises that seemed rare, or unimaginable, even 20 years ago. And if these storms and disasters are going to continue at this rate, we will see more people displaced, and more homes destroyed.
Ice is melting fast. Photographer James Balog was sent by National Geographic to the Arctic in 2007 to document climate change. There he saw glaciers melting before his eyes. This project inspired him to return and record the melt, which is the subject of the award winning 2012 documentary, Chasing Ice.
Over the past century, the glaciers retreated about 8 miles, in the past 10 years alone, the glaciers have retreated the same amount
Vice Media CEO Shane Smith visited Greenland in last week’s episode of VICE on HBO to examine this environmental disaster. The episode shared a startling piece of information: Greenland loses 140 billion tons of ice a year. 140 billion tons. Can you imagine a ton of ice melting in the space you are in now? You’d have to swim to get to your next destination! Shane talked about a phenomenon called biological darkening. All of the soot from wildfires, diesel exhaust, and plants that use coal is deposited in the arctic, resulting in black holes in the ice. These dark spots absorb more energy and heat from the sun. More soot means more black holes, which ends up speeding up ice melt.
Watch a debrief of the episode:
What can we do?
Dr. Gavin Schmidt, a NASA climatologist, says that to slow down or stabilize the ice loss we have to cut world emissions by 80%. Sounds like a stretch, but it’s deeply unsettling to know that emissions are actually going up. Slowing climate change requires a huge shift in thinking and production since our energy needs are anchored in oil and coal. With rising population we are using more nonrenewable resources, and dirtying our water and air.
We can make small changes, though, to limit our consumption and the amount of pollution we create. We can be mindful of how we use energy, but most importantly educate ourselves. When armed with information and knowledge we can make better choices, share our voices, and demand change.
Picked just for you:
Read – The Big Thaw: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/06/big-thaw/big-thaw-text
Learn – Extreme Ice Survey: http://extremeicesurvey.org/
Do – Ways to Reduce Air Pollution: http://epa.gov/oaqps001/peg_caa/reduce.html
Photo source: http://geology.campus.ad.csulb.edu/people/bperry/Geology%20160/OceanSedimentImages/IceCalving.jpg
Arctic Ocean photo source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/7348953774/in/set-72157631272507568
Effects of Climate Change photo source: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/impacts/signs/glaciers.html
Glaciers Moving Photo source: Screen shot from the Chasing Ice documentary