Since the turn of the new century, every aspect of climate change has gone ballistic, up, up, and away, not looking back, leaving the 20th century fairly harmless, but only on a relative basis, especially as compared to the rip-snorting 21st century. It’s a whole new ballgame, starting with this new century.
Society is witnessing a great acceleration of climate change way above and beyond modeling by climate scientists, and it can be frightening.
This century is shaping up to be designated an inflection point of radical change with solid evidence of trouble down the line found most recently in a rapid meltdown phase of the Greenland Ice Sheet, a target way too big to miss. It’s melting fast and faster beyond the scope of climate models, which, for reasons not fully explained, cannot keep up with the cascading ice mass.
Starting with this decade, Greenland’s meltdown took flight. This is indisputable as its acceleration has a familiar ring found amongst all major ecosystems, planet-wide. In short, climate change acceleration is universal. It’s a horrifyingly dangerous threat to the integrity of life-sourcing ecosystems, like the Great Barrier Reef, three massive unprecedented bleaching events in only five years; all the result of rising ocean temperatures driven by global heat, up to 90% mortality in some locations. (Source: Australian Academy of Sciences).
Greenland represents 23 feet of sea level encased in ice up to two miles thick and will likely require hundreds or thousands of years to completely melt-down, but for current purposes that doesn’t count! What counts are the upcoming years on the way to 23 feet. And, that’s a dicey proposition when consideration is given to how far off scientists’ models have been. It’ best to brace for the worst.
In time, sea levels will surpass 1-2-3-4-5 feet, and more, but within an unknown time frame. Keep in mind even one-foot of an increase spells worldwide coastal disasters. A Noah’s Ark scenario is not needed to upend coastal cities throughout the planet.
The rule of thumb for sea level rise is: One inch of sea level increase submerges 50-100 inches of beach coastline. So, in plain English, if one-inch equals 4-to-8 feet of submerged beach, in turn, one-foot will submerge 48-to-96 feet of coastline beach. (Source: NASA-Jet propulsion Laboratory). That’s a lot, especially for Miami Beach, where the city has already had to raise streets (Google: “Miami Beach is Raising Streets by 2 Feet to Combat Rising Seas” to see a photo).
Nobody knows how high how soon seas will rise, but seas will rise well beyond the average increase of the past century, count on it. In fact, mark it down in a calendar so as not to forget, maybe 2025 or 2030 or at the latest 2050, but that’s only guess work and not part of the most recent study of Greenland’s meltdown, as follows:
“A new study finds that accelerating retreat and thinning of Greenland’s glaciers that began 20 years ago is speeding the ice sheet toward total meltdown.” (Source: Going, Going… Gone: Greenland’s Melting Ice Sheet Passed a Point of No Return in the Early 2000s, Inside Climate News, August 15, 2020).
Sure enough, the study identifies this century, the year 2000, as the start of “accelerating retreat,” which encompasses a major inflection point for climate change disaster scenarios popping up everywhere, for example, Siberia, Antarctica, the Amazon rainforest, and the Arctic. They’re experiencing bizarre climate events that threaten to alter entire ecosystems.
And, of interest, the Greenland ice sheet withstood over 200 years of the industrial age as snowfall every fall/winter rebalanced the ice loss of the prior spring/summer, until the year 2000. Then, things changed. Now, the aforementioned study claims that the former rhythmic balance in nature of ice loss subsequently followed by ice buildup since eons ago is lost forever. It’s gone!
Alas, the situation only gets worse, according to Ian Howat, who co-authored the study, even if warming stopped today, the ice melt will continue: “Glacier retreat has knocked the dynamics of the whole ice sheet into constant state of loss,” Ibid.
A “constant state of loss” means: There is no effective solution to the big meltdown. Still, according to the scientists, by curbing greenhouse gas emissions, like the CO2 emitted from automobile tailpipes and other fossil fuel consumption devices, the meltdown process could be delayed, thus giving people much more time to build seawalls as the 21st century ushers in a new genre, “The Seawall School of Architecture.”
After all, there is no chance that emissions will be curbed. In today’s real world, it is simply not on the docket. Greenhouse gases have been accelerating ever since China decided to mix a cocktail of High-end Capitalism and the Communist Party of China; thereafter, building a brand spanking new coal-burning power plant every week like clockwork to meet capitalistic demands for cheaper products for America and the world, starting in the late 1970s.
For perspective purposes on how soon the weekly build-out of Chinese coal plants impacts climate change, keep in mind the 10/yr-to-20/yr lag effect between emissions spewed into the atmosphere and climate change impact, e.g., record high temperatures in the Arctic and Greenland and Antarctica coinciding with conspicuous acceleration of climate change over the first two decades of this century on the heels of China’s build-out of a new coal plant every week, starting 20 years prior to the new century. The dots connect.
According to The Economist, May 21, 2020: “A Glut of New Coal-Fired Power Stations Endangers China’s Green Ambitions.” China is relaxing curbs on building coal-burning power plants. Does this mean the IPCC should call-out China for its failure to abide by the Paris 2015 climate accord?
Not only China but also Japan plans to build 20 new coal-powered plants and India is planning numerous new coal-powered plants. And, that’s only half of today’s fossil-fuel renaissance, looking ahead thru this decade, oil barons, like Saudi Arabia and the U.S., intend to increase oil and gas production by up to 130% by 2030, meaning substantially higher CO2 emissions leading to hotter temperatures leading to higher sea levels leading to increased flooding of coastal cities.
Where’s the IPCC when it’s really needed or is it hopelessly feckless?
In truth, the underlying Greenland message is not subtle; it’s simply build seawalls, thus protecting hundreds of millions of people, businesses, and urban environments from massive flooding, and soil contamination and aquifer spoilage via salt water. Coastal cities across the world need to start constructing enormous seawalls, in some cases extending for miles beyond the city’s limits, possibly as far as an entire coastline, as rising waters find voids in structures.
Remarkably, the planet keeps on truckin’.
Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 articles published, including several translated into foreign languages, appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He has been interviewed on numerous FM radio programs, as well as television.