Talk about the implications of climate change, though it never dwindles completely in this day and age, is once again in full swing. This is because of the results of a study which has found that the ice sheets of Antarctica are melting at an alarming rate. In fact, it seems that the rate at which the ice is melting has doubled since the last survey.
The study was carried out by two teams of scientists, one from the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling and one from the University of Leeds. Both used data which was collected by the CryoSat-2 satellite mission.
The results showed that Antarctica was losing 159 gigatonnes of ice each year from 2010 to 2013, which is a 50% increase over the amount which was being lost during a survey carried out from 2005 to 2010.
If you’re having a hard time putting this into perspective, that much ice is enough to raise ocean levels by about half a millimeter every year. While this might not seem like much, keep in mind that Greenland and Arctic ice is melting at a faster rate than ever as well.
What Impact Will This Have On Humanity?
Rising sea levels pose a significant risk to humanity quite simply because a large percentage of the human population lives in coastal areas.
It is estimated that close to 635 million people currently live within a mere 30 feet of sea level, putting them at great risk should ocean levels rise more rapidly. The majority of the world’s most heavily populated cities are also located very close to coastal areas. Rising sea levels would cause widespread damages in these areas, perhaps even to the extent of making them unlivable.
Of particular concern are the world’s island nations, where serious flooding and coastal erosion could create millions of climate refugees. Every year during the rainy season we witness the devastation that is wrought by storms and flooding in countries such as the Philippines. Rising sea levels could mean that such flooding becomes a permanent reality, and it could also lead to a greater frequency and severity of storms such as last year’s Typhoon Haiyan.
Aside from the immediate physical devastation that rising sea levels can cause to coastal inhabitants, there are also several long-term effects that need to be considered. For example, rising sea levels can result in rising water tables, the intrusion of saltwater into our freshwater supplies, and major impacts on agriculture.
By interfering with agricultural and economic activities, rising sea levels could affect all of humanity, not just those of us who live on the coast. Though it is impossible to tell just yet how much of a rise we may be in for, the latest data from Antarctica does not seem to bode well. Nevertheless, there are several projects already in place around the world which are attempting to get a handle on this situation, and this data is going to be extremely beneficial in helping humanity prepare for and deal with the future.