Collapse Of Greenland Ice Shield - Consequences

By Dr John James

08 August, 2006 Countercurrents. org

The Greenland glaciers that cover the island contain enough water to raise sea level twenty feet, or seven meters. It was once thoughts (and that was only six years ago) that the glaciers would be self-sustaining even in a warming world because of size and so on.

We now know that this is not true. Not only are the edges melting fast, but the surface melt is seeping through the ice to lubricate the junction between the ice and the rock underneath. This is the unexpected factor that has turned scientific attention onto this escalating problem.

It appears that the Greenland ice is shot through with crevices, tunnels and faults through which the melting upper surface can penetrate right through the glacier, and threaten to break the attachment between the ice and the rock base.

When this happens much of this mountain of water will flow into the sea. Already twenty-one of the great glacial masses are moving seawards eight times faster than ten years ago. It would seem we are on the verge of a major tipping point in climate change, if we have not already reached it.

It is important to be aware of the consequences. The five most urgent are

1. Most coastal cities would become uninhabitable for many, for metros would be flooded, sewage and stormwater flows would be overwhelmed, and most cable infrastructure would be affected. More drastically, most docks would be underwater so that food and oil could not be landed, even if it could be loaded into the ships in the first place. And in any case, without oil, how would food be transported?

2. Enormous areas of the most productive agricultural land would be underwater. One thinks immediately of Bangladesh and the North Sea farms in Holland and Anglesea.

3. The alteration in the cold water flow that drives the great deep-sea currents of the world would have a profound impact on the Gulf Stream, with completely unpredictable results. The eastern US and Europe may become hotter or colder or more storm-ridden. No matter which, the outcome spells disaster for some of the most advanced cultures on earth.

4. Removing the weight of the ice cover from such a large land-mass will have an impact on the earth on quake and, considering how close Iceland is, on volcanic activity.

5. Lastly, and most significantly for a world that is now awash in guns, people, in their millions, will be on the move for survival.

This is the future that we are bequeathing our children, and ourselves if any of us are younger then 65. This is happening in our times, to our families and loved ones, and is no longer a distant scenario. It would appear that it is here.

The latest US Navy survey suggests there will be no sea ice left in the Arctic summer by 2016. Is this the date we have to look forward to?

Why it Happens and How to Stop it.


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