13 August 2020   Leave a comment

A research paper published today suggests that Greenland’s glaciers may have reached a point of no return due to global warming. One of the researchers made the following statement:

“‘Glacier retreat has knocked the dynamics of the whole ice sheet into a constant state of loss,’ said Ian Howat, a co-author on the paper, professor of earth sciences and distinguished university scholar at Ohio State. ‘Even if the climate were to stay the same or even get a little colder, the ice sheet would still be losing mass.’

Shrinking glaciers in Greenland are a problem for the entire planet. The ice that melts or breaks off from Greenland’s ice sheets ends up in the Atlantic Ocean—and, eventually, all of the world’s oceans. Ice from Greenland is a leading contributor to sea level rise—last year, enough ice melted or broke off from the Greenland ice sheet to cause the oceans to rise by 2.2 millimeters in just two months.”

Data going back to 2000 indicate that Greenland’s glaciers have been losing about 500 gigatons of ice every year. The finding is consistent with another new study that unfortunately suggests that among the various scenarios climatologists have modeled, some of the more pessimistic scenarios are becoming more likely. The different scenarios are called Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) [I wish that scientists would come up with less opaque phrases]. The scenarios are based upon how much Carbon Dioxide is actually emitted and how the climate responds to those levels. The rankings are from best-case to worst:

“The best-case scenario (RCP 2.6) is the basis for the Paris climate agreement and would lead to warming of about 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8 Celsius) by 2100. In that scenario, about 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs could survive, and 20 percent of Alpine glaciers would remain.

“The worst-case pathway (RCP 8.5) would result in warming of more than 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.3 Celsius) by 2100, probably killing nearly all the world’s reefs and definitely pushing vast areas of polar ice sheets to melt, raising sea level by as much as 3 feet by 2100.”

So far, the actual level of CO2 emissions is closely tracking the RCP 8.5 scenario, at least up to 2050. That scenario assumes that the world does not come close to limiting C02 emissions but actually increases those emissions from keeping the emissions close to the projected increase if the world just keeps emitting at current levels. The forecast is grim.

Posted August 13, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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