It’s no secret that the Arctic region has been suffering from the effects of global warming for quite some time – but nothing has been quite as extreme as last Thursday when up to 40% of Greenland experienced melting, leading to the loss of what scientists estimate to be equal to two billion metric tons. All in one day.
After Antarctica, Greenland’s ice sheets are the second largest ice body in the world. If all the ice were to melt, scientists say that sea levels would rise by about 7.2 metres. At the rate global warming is heading, high temperatures in the region will only continue to rise. The Arctic is already warming twice as much as the rest of the planet, and if the ice sheets were to continue melting, it could inevitably affect climate on a global scale.
While temperature spikes in Greenland aren’t unheard of, what makes this particularly terrifying is that the melt season usually occurs between June and August with the largest meltdown happening around July. This year, the sheets began to melt weeks before the annual average. The current scale of ice loss is not unprecedented but still unusual and gives us a frightening glimpse of what’s to come, if the situation isn’t stabilised.
We all know about the threat of rising sea levels, but the hazards awaiting us are more menacing. Not only may many cities fall underwater but the weather will also be severely affected with extreme disasters becoming increasingly common. Many scientists have emphasised even greater risks such as the planet’s rotation changing, pre-historic viruses exposed, frozen toxins and nuclear waste. As the ice caps melt into the water, extreme damage to ecosystems and biodiversity can also be expected, completely changing life as we know it.
Before all of this happens, the indigenous people of Greenland will be among the first to suffer. Much of the Inuit community rely on ice sheets for a variety of reasons from transport to hunting. With places in Greenland already subject to mass melting, the Inuits will likely become displaced and thus lose their traditional way of life.
How Can We Stop This?
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a simple answer to a complicated question, but it is the best answer we have. Environmental activists across the globe are urging their government officials to create legislation that will heavily reduce emissions, but many are still denying the impact of fuels like gas, coal and oil on the atmosphere.
However, change may be on the horizon. The United Kingdom, for example, recently introduced legislation that will cut emissions to net zero by 2050 and has become the first large economy to do so. Hopefully, others will follow suit before it’s too late.