There is hardly another incident caused by mankind that could end as badly as could climate change and the melting of the glaciers. The most important thing is not the global rise in temperature itself, but rather the horrendous consequences that this increase brings. The sea level is rising, places that were bursting with water in the past are now almost completely dried up and the sea is where it has never been before.
Time to wake up now, climate change is not a conspiracy theory, it is a fact. It is no coincidence that the different seasons of a year are not the way they used to be, that in Germany the temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius even in October and that snow on Christmas is getting pretty rare. Climate is changing and it is our fault. But what exactly did we start there? The one thing that is sure is that we started a chain reaction, that can’t be stopped anymore, but hopefully can be slowed down.
What global warming means
Due to the global population growth and industrialization the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere continually increases. This is what leads to a warming of the atmosphere close to earth, that is more distinctive and happening a lot faster (because of human influence) than it would if it was still a natural process. This increased temperature average leads to changes within the environment: It is getting warmer. When the temperature of the atmosphere close to earth rises as drastically as it does right now, it is a devastating interference with the natural climate cycle and the rotation of the warm phases and ice ages of our planet. Particularly affected by this interference is Antarctica, as well as Greenland. When talking about an increase of the sea-level or the melting of the glaciers, those two are the places that are referred to. Because of the increased temperature average the melting process proceeds a lot faster, and, above all a lot stronger than within its natural process. That is why there is a clear rise of the sea-level: The meltwater generating in Greenland leads to an increase of about 0.5 millimetres, Antarctica adds another 0.2 millimetres per year. Alright, those numbers indeed do not sound as dangerous as they might will be for us in the end. But if the amount of emitted greenhouse gases continues to rise unchecked, the situation cannot be handled by raising the dikes. In addition to the melting of the glaciers there is the so called “thermal expansion”, describing the phenomenon of the expansion of substances – including sea water – in a warm surrounding. Summoning these processes the sea level could rise by 82 centimetres until the end of this century – and that is one of the lower estimated results.
What is going to happen, if the sea level rises?
In a simplified way: the earth loses parts of land. But of course it is not that easy. Everything depends on how climate change as a chain reaction can be moderated and what consequences we have to face eventually. Predicting in what extend the glaciers of Antarctica and Greenland are going to melt is quite difficult, as well as guessing a final increase of the sea level. But there is definitely no lack of speculation, research approaches and complicated theories. Looking at the values of the past years you can see a drastic increase, promising nothing good for the future. In the 18th century for example, the rise of the sea level only was around 2 centimetres. The next century showed an increase of approximately 6 centimetres. In comparison, in the 19th century the sea level had a pretty drastic increase of about 19 centimetres. Based on these numbers you can probably imagine how devastating the numbers of the future could be, if the sea level continues rising as drastically as it does right now.
For a lot of island countries and maritime provinces an additional increase of the sea-level could lead to a catastrophe. Especially in those regions a lot of people have their homes, to be more specific with 630 million people almost 10% of the world population does. Several areas could soon be engulfed by the sea. And if that was not enough, the affected areas are mostly metropolitan areas. Among them are places like the Netherlands, Bangladesh and big parts of the east coast of the USA, including cities like New York.
Another Country that won’t be spared by an increase of the sea-level is the popular vacation destination Costa Rica. In this country you can already see the consequences of climate change; The beach areas are getting smaller and smaller due to the strong increase of the sea-level. And that’s not only harming the countries landscape but also its economy, because those maritime provinces are of vital importance for tourism, what makes up an essential source of income. In some areas, there already have been dangerous floods leaving nothing but destruction and chaos. So, in what extend the sea-level is going to rise in the next years is an important question to ask for the affected regions, so that they can take suitable measures. An important lead for research and estimation are, as said before, the Glaciers of Greenland.
Discovery in Greenland indicates the complete melting of the glaciers
If the glacial ice of Greenland melts completely, the sea-level would rise by several devastating metres. Recent measuring at the ice indicates the possibility that this indeed could happen. There are clues leading to the assumption that the glacier ice of Greenland is not as steady as it was supposed to be. It is said that in the last natural warm phase the ice vanished completely and that there was no ice in Greenland for 280 000 years in the past 1,4 million years. That would mean that the glacial ice could melt completely as a consequence of human interference as well. Decisive for this Theory is the discovery of the radioactive elements Beryllium-10 and Aluminium-26 at the bottom of the glacial ice in Greenland. Those substances are formed when radiation reaches rock. Due to the discovery of these substances experts suppose that rock has not been covered with ice, because if it would have been covered, those substances wouldn’t form. Because of the decay rate of these radioactive elements it is thought, that the ice has been melted for a long period of time, because the values of the elements were a lot higher than they would have been, if the ground was covered. These discoveries are quite alarming because the consequences of an accelerated melting by the hand of man would be catastrophic.
But there are, as usual, other discoveries that shall provide counterevidence. In front of the east coast of Greenland another research team hardly found any trace of Beryllium-10 and Aluminium-26, what leads to the assumption that the ground at this place has not been exposed to radiation for a long time. Therefore, the ice of Greenland must have been covered with ice for at least 7.5 million years – That would mean, that even in a warm phase the ground was covered with ice. Both discoveries are probably accurate if you consider the possibility of the rocks not always having been at the place where they were found.
There is no certainty for what is going to happen with the glacial ice of Greenland or in what extend this has an influence on the sea level because of these observations. But what is certain is that these recent discoveries prove that we need more scientific research. Because trusting on estimates and assumptions only would be far too dangerous. What is sure is that the sea-level has clearly increased in the last years and still rises with increased speed. The effects of climate change can definitely be seen in several regions. To prevent the worst and to safe different regions from drowning it is important to put an end to the thoughtless way in which we are treating the environment. Cause if we stop trying to slow down global warming we might be all living at the sea, even if we didn’t plan to.
By Esther Feustel