Of Greenland Ice Shield - Consequences
By Dr John James
08 August, 2006
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?