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Ever since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gas emissions have together raised global temperatures. Global temperatures have risen by 0.14 degrees Fahrenheit every decade since the 1880s. However, the rate of warming rose by more than twice 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1981. Climate change and global warming are the worst environmental disasters the world is currently facing. It has led to melting ice caps driving sea-level rise, frequent and intense natural calamities, warmer temperatures, and more.
Among all the impacts of global warming, sea-level rise is one of the scariest. Sea level rise will destroy coastal communities, cities, livelihoods, and infrastructures. Not only will people lose their homes and livelihood, but entities and individuals will also lose money due to damage to infrastructure. Sea levels worldwide have risen by 0.06 inches every year from 1880 to 2013.
The melting of glaciers is responsible for sea-level rise. How exactly are melting ice caps driving the sea level rise?
The environment is destroyed and damaged every day, and its impact on the world is seen more today than ever before. The increasing demand and reliance on fossil fuels and the resultant greenhouse effect have increased global warming to the extent that the entire ecosystem is gradually getting disturbed. The rise in temperatures around the world is causing ice caps to melt and disappear, which poses a dangerous threat to ecology and humanity.
The Alpine glaciers have much to offer to the entire world. The Alpine glaciers are a great source of fresh water as they melt and feed several rivers. Further, these rivers support agriculture and electricity generation. These glaciers also indicate climate change and global warming as studies can be conducted on them to ascertain the fall or rise in global temperatures.
Pakistan has the world’s greatest number of glaciers outside the polar region- around 7,253 glaciers. According to experts, at least a third of glaciers in the world will disappear by the end of the 21st century. This is a disastrous impact on Pakistan. Several communities living in the northern regions depend on the glaciers for their drinking water. Their whole subsistence and agriculture depend on it. Without the glaciers, life is impossible there.
The melting of ice caps also poses an immediate threat. Lakes are formed as glaciers melt. When these lakes overflow, they cause floods known as glacial lake outburst floods. Several villages and towns are situated near the vicinity of these glaciers. Their property and lives are at risk due to this climatic issue.
Melting glaciers also add to the rise in sea levels, further increasing coastal erosion and boosting storm surges as warming ocean and air temperatures create more intense and frequent coastal storms like cyclones and typhoons. The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf is the single largest block of ice in the Arctic region. It started cracking in 2000. This ice shelf has been around for 3000 years and has begun to break into small pieces.
According to reports by NASA, the polar ice caps are disappearing at a rapid rate of 9 percent each decade. Arctic ice thickness has reduced by 40 percent since the 1960s. According to experts at the US Centre for Atmospheric Research, if the current temperature rate continues to rise, the Arctic will not have any ice caps left by 2040.
The sea-level rise in the coming years will depend on warmer temperatures and the pace at which the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets disappear. If greenhouse gas emissions continue at the existing pace or increase, the current melting rate on the Greenland ice sheet will likely double by the end of the 21st century. Interestingly and shockingly, if all ice on Greenland happened to melt, it would raise sea levels by 20 feet all around the world.
The Antarctic ice sheets and the Greenland ice sheets, in particular, contribute the most toward the global sea-level rise. Currently, the Greenland ice sheet is melting four times faster than in 2003 and contributes to 20 percent of the current sea-level rise.
Antarctica at the South Pole holds around 90 percent of the world’s ice. The ice covering is about 7,000 feet thick. It extends to approximately 14 million square kilometers– roughly about the size of the United States and Mexico together. If all this ice happened to melt due to warmer temperatures, the global sea level would rise by 200 feet.
Around 80 percent of the sunlight that strikes the glaciers is reflected out of our atmosphere. Without glaciers, the amount of heat absorbed by our oceans will likely cause ocean temperatures to rise. Several major cities are located in low-lying coastal areas; when sea levels rise, they will be in the water by more than 6 feet.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that the sea level could rise by 10 to 23 inches by 2100. Environmental Protection Agency reported that global sea levels have risen by 6 to 8 inches during the last 100 years.
Thus, melting ice caps are driving the sea-level rise. And melting ice caps are caused by warmer temperatures caused by human activities. So, are melting ice caps driving sea level rise? Or are humans the main cause?