Anthony Blinken is the Secretary of State for the US and he has recently emphasized the climate change taking place in the Arctic region. This happened at a meeting between Blinken and other officials from different nations in Iceland. However, the meeting conveniently left out the climate concerns in Antarctica.
New research has revealed that Antarctica is the most vulnerable region that is facing intense environmental risks. This might coerce the choices of the countries and make them take some stringent decisions regarding the emission of greenhouse gases and the survival of coastal cities including New York and Shanghai in the future.
Moreover, the present concerns might manifest sooner than we realize.
The Arctic is certainly losing the ice at an exponentially fast speed owing to the rise in global temperatures. This is having an impact directly on the lives of the people and biodiversity and creating loopholes in the feedback regarding the fuel is causing the warming.
However, Antarctica has emerged as the large wild card for sea-level rise because it comprises a vast quantity of ice that can possibly increase the sea level by over 60 meters worldwide. This is almost 10 times more than the ice sheet present in Greenland.
Scientists have known for a long time and have been sending warnings regarding the ice sheets of Antarctica that have an actual tipping point. The ice sheet loss will certainly accelerate enormously beyond the tipping point.
A new study was published in Nature journal that has informed, that the ice sheets might reach the critical point within a few decades’ time when the children of today will raise their own families. As a result, this suggests a need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas because even technological advancements will not be able to save us from it later.
Tipping Point For Antarctica
There are a few protective shelves of ice in Antarctica which spread across the ocean surrounding the perpetually flowing glaciers of the continent. It also helps in slowing down the flow of land-based glaciers into the sea. However, these shelves might become thin enough to break when the warm water seeps below them.
Tall ice cliffs will definitely break apart and start melting as soon as the ice shelves start breaking up. Presently, Antarctica has 2 probable instabilities. Some of the ice sheets have stayed under sea level on bedrock that slopes in towards the central part of the continent. Subsequently, warming waters will eat the lower edges and destabilize them, causing them to retreat downwards quickly. The rains and surface melting phenomenon over the water will open the ice fractures.
The extremely tall ice cliffs might not be very stable to hold themselves and eventually collapse catastrophically. This will further amplify the rate at which the ice will melt and increase sea-level rise. The deep, warmer circumpolar waters might seep into the ice shelves that may eat away the glaciers in the base level.
This study has made use of computer modeling that is based on the physics of those ice sheets. It was discovered that if Antarctica reaches over 2 ℃ of warming, then the continent will experience a sharp shift in loss of ice, driven by rapid ice loss across the enormous Thwaites Glacier. Britain or Florida drains into this glacier and has been a focus of significant study by the scientists of the UK and the US.
Most of the press does not cover the different approaches. However, it is worth mentioning that our planet has already exceeded the 2 ℃ warming mark. The magnitude of sea-level is aimed at reducing drastically by the Paris Agreement.
Catastrophe Coming Sooner Than Expected
A new study has also mentioned that in case emissions are not reduced dramatically, then the ice sheets of Antarctica will go beyond the critical threshold by approximately 2060. The sea-level rise will be irreversible. Extracting carbon dioxide from the air will also not help in preventing ice loss. Within 2100, sea-level might rise at more than 10 times faster as compared to the present pace.
Moreover, this study also shows that with the continued high emissions till 2100, the sea-level rise might explode and exceed 6 cm each year within 2150. The ice sheets will get warmer and softer and heat up the oceans for the forthcoming centuries, preventing Antarctica from freezing up the ice shelves again. If the goals of the Paris Agreement are met, the sea-level rise will still be more than 10 times that what is expected.
Major counties including European Union, UK, and the US have set a goal of cutting their emissions by 50% within 2030. Yet, present policies will only lead to a reduction of 1% by 2030. Few researchers have mentioned that Antarctica’s ice cliffs will not collapse as easily as Greenland’s. Yet current global patterns suggest that collapse is inevitable while the only question is how fast it will happen.
Consequently, countries must start rethinking their policies by taking into account marine life and Indigenous cultures. This will certainly safeguard ecosystems under threat. Appropriate policies to preserve marine communities must be set and strictly followed. While more scientists are now taking an interest in Antarctica, it is becoming clearer that the continent holds an immense influence on the fate of our planet.