Climate change is the hot topic once again as the heated debate (excuse the lousy pun) regarding man-made global warming takes another turn. New reports about rising sea levels due to melting ice caps in Antarctica have the scientific community worried that large parts of the Earth’s surface will become inhabitable much sooner than originally expected. In a study published in the scientific magazine Nature, researchers estimate that current numbers of greenhouse gas emissions could potentially make sea levels rise over 3 feet by the end of the century from the ice melt in Antarctica alone. Put together with ice caps in other areas also melting, a rise of 6 feet is a very real and alarming possibility. There’s still insufficient data to accurately predict how much the oceans will rise, but as the reports indicate an accelerated warming of the planet, we can expect many of the world’s coastal cities to be compromised before the year of 2100. In a worst-case scenario, we’re looking at the complete meltdown of the Greenland ice pack, which would make global sea levels increase to 23 feet. This would be enough to completely submerge many of our biggest cities and settlements. If the current emission of carbon dioxide and methane is allowed to continue, the oceans could be rising by more than 1 foot every ten years. In this model, sea levels would be close to 50 feet higher than they are today, according to another study by Pennsylvania State University.
These new reports show a much faster acceleration than previously predicted, meaning we could soon be forced to measure rise of sea levels in centimeters rather than today’s standard of millimeters. The question is, can our society adapt to this new scenario fast enough? The logistic requirements alone would be a nightmare, with an insufficiently combined effort merely halting the tide temporarily. Should we fail to implement the necessary corrections in terms of geoengineering, humanity could be looking at a mass migration inlands. We would have to make a tactical retreat to higher ground and surrender our coastlines to be subjected to nature’s wrath. The United States and Canada would be among the first to feel the impact since it’s currently the western part of Antarctica that displays the largest loss of solid mass. Another concern directly related to climate change is the acidification of oceans. As the seas get warmer, greenhouse gases that are normally kept at greater depths rise to the surface. A substantial increase of carbon dioxide and methane in shallow waters would have a disastrous effect on coastal wildlife and ultimately mankind. The majority of our protein supply is provided by the seas and a crippled ecosystem could lead to a massive food shortage within the span of a few decades.
What’s important to remember is that this is an absolute worst-case scenario based on computer-modeled science. The effect of emissions might be here faster than we’d like, but there’s still time to combat climate change through sound environmental policy. China is in the process of putting together a national environmental program meant to significantly reduce their extreme air pollution in urban areas, and the countries in south-east Asia are becoming more aware of the hazards of deforestation and being dependent on fossil fuels. New technology for transportation is constantly being developed. One of the more recent crusades involves a switch-over from the use of 4-stroke engines to 8-stroke on a global scale. We’re still witnessing massive resistance from the oil companies and their lobbyists, but as more hard data is collected from a more or less unified scientific community, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll see some serious regulations for the big providers of non-renewable energy sources. This is crucial moment in the history of mankind, and the decisions we make today will determine which path we take and where it will lead us.