Melting glaciers, rising seas: Approaching local weather tipping factors | Local weather Information

Melting glaciers, rising seas: Approaching local weather tipping factors | Local weather Information

There are some extraordinary ‘then and now’ pictures showing in information feeds, alarming photos revealing the extent of glacier recession in Iceland.

Pictures taken in 1989 and 2020 give a really visible demonstration of how critical our planet’s ice loss is.

Facet-by-side comparisons of the pictures present how dramatically the outlet glaciers of the Vatnajökull ice cap have receded.

Then: huge reaches of ice and snow. Now: naked rock.

“On floor appearances, the extent of the local weather disaster usually stays largely invisible,” mentioned Kieran Baxter from the College of Dundee, who documented the glaciers in 2020. “However right here we will clearly see the gravity of the state of affairs that affects the entire globe.”

Elemental energy

I spent every week filming in Iceland for Planet SOS in 2019, perpetually awed by a panorama cast by the supercharged geology, formed and reshaped by the results of the basic energy of pure forces.

Basalt rock pinnacles hewn out by erosion stood sentinel on the shore with craggy mountains towering within the distance. Glaciers swept over energetic volcanoes, ash from earlier eruptions carpeting the ice.

By means of the millennia the glaciers have superior and retreated however by no means has the withdrawal been as drastic as it’s now. And it’s taking place to almost all of the world’s glaciers – from the Alps to the Andes, from Greenland to Antarctica.

I spoke to geologist Oddur Sigurðsson who has been charting glacier loss for many years and is properly conscious of the worldwide implications.

“Glaciers will soften,” he instructed me. “The meltwater runs into the ocean and the ocean floor rises. I instructed my mates in america, that the refugees wouldn’t solely be coming from Mexico and Central America but in addition from Florida and the Atlantic coast.”

Consider that. Refugees from the Atlantic coast, refugees from Florida.

Tipping factors

The primary world ice-loss survey launched not too long ago discovered that melting of the ice sheets accelerated a lot through the previous 30 years that it’s now according to the worst-case situations outlined by scientists.

There was a shocking change on the current Outrage and Optimism podcast which rendered host Christiana Figueres, one of many architects of the Paris Settlement, speechless.

She was instructed by main local weather scientist Johan Rockström, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Local weather Influence Analysis, that we’ve already gone past some key tipping factors. Shedding the resilience of the planet was the nightmare that’s protecting scientists awake at night time, Rockström mentioned.

“The primary is the canary within the coalmine – the Arctic summer season sea ice. Now we have handed the purpose of no return, affecting climate methods within the Northern Hemisphere with heatwaves and drought and forest fires. It’s impacting the Gulf Stream and inflicting heat floor temperatures which are accelerating the melting of the west Antarctic ice shelf.”

Rockström went on to say that quite a lot of glaciers in west Antarctica are beginning to irrevocably slide into the ocean, crossing one other tipping level. “This may possible commit ourselves to at least one or two metres of sea-level rise.”

Land turns into sea

What does that bodily imply? That by the century’s finish, an enormous proportion of our coastal populations would have needed to transfer. Tons of of hundreds of thousands of individuals can be going inland. And what’s now maybe an environment friendly subway transport system would change into the area of fish and sea squirts. Cities deluged, land turns into sea.

A current report by Local weather Danger Administration says that 100 of the world’s airports could possibly be under imply sea degree by 2100. Of these, 20 airports dealt with greater than 800 million passengers in 2018, approaching a fifth of the world’s passenger site visitors that yr.

Like we’ve mentioned earlier than, you suppose this pandemic dangerous? We ain’t seen nothing but.

Cautious caretakers

“It’s a final warning system from science,” Rockström mentioned. “Science is saying we’ve discovered a lot, listed here are the crimson flags. We will deviate away however that requires slicing emissions by half each decade and reaching a net-zero world financial system in 30 years time.”

And crucially, Rockström added, we have to hold all remaining pure ecosystems intact.

“We have to change into very, very cautious caretakers of oceans and all of the pure ecosystems on land. Then we will nonetheless keep away from probably the most catastrophic outcomes.”

These are warnings we hear time and time once more, solely they’re turning into louder and extra pressing as science reveals actuality, simply as absolutely because the glaciers reveal naked rock.

Your setting round-up

1. UK PM dangers ‘humiliation’ over coal mine: A number one local weather scientist has urged Boris Johnson to halt manufacturing at a brand new coal mine in Cumbria. “You could have an opportunity to vary the course of our local weather trajectory … Or you’ll be able to keep on with business-almost-as-usual and be vilified world wide,” James Hansen, the previous high world warming researcher at NASA, wrote in a letter.

2. Meat and politics between Tibet and China: Tibetan Buddhist monks are urging former nomadic yak herders to embrace vegetarianism, whereas native authorities hope to bolster the economic manufacturing of yak meat for a Chinese language public that’s consuming extra meat than ever earlier than.

3. Our unnatural disasters: Due to local weather change, the world is seeing extra wildfires, storms, and new viruses than it did within the current previous. Though we title them “pure” disasters, some say we must always name them out for the man-made catastrophes they are surely.

4. A freshwater Arctic Ocean?: In the course of the Ice Ages, the Arctic basin was remoted from the world ocean, and should have swung between being crammed with salt water and recent water at completely different instances, in accordance with a current geochemical examine of marine sediments.

The ultimate phrase

Tipping factors are so harmful as a result of in case you cross them, the local weather is out of humanity’s management: if an ice sheet disintegrates and begins to slip into the ocean there’s nothing we will do about that.

James Hansen, main local weather scientist

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