A total of 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared from the surface of the Earth since 1994. That is stunning conclusion of UK scientists who have analysed satellite surveys of the planet’s poles, mountains and glaciers to measure how much ice coverage lost because of global heating triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions.
The scientists – based at Leeds and Edinburgh universities and University College London – describe the level of ice loss as “staggering” and warn that their analysis indicates that sea level rises, triggered by melting glaciers and ice sheets, could reach a metre by the end of the century.
“To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands,” said Professor Andy Shepherd, director of Leeds University’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.
The scientists also warn that the melting of ice in these quantities is now seriously reducing the planet’s ability to reflect solar radiation back into space. White ice is disappearing and the dark sea or soil exposed beneath it is absorbing more and more heat, further increasing the warming of the planet.
Science doesn’t tell anyone what to do, it merely collects and presents verified information. It is up to us to study and connect the dots. When you read the IPCC SR1.5 report and the UNEP production gap report, as well as what leaders have actually signed up for in the Paris agreement, you see that the climate and ecological crisis can no longer be solved within today’s systems. Even a child can see that policies of today don’t add up with the current best available science.
We need to end the ongoing wrecking, exploitation and destruction of our life support systems and move towards a fully decarbonised economy that is centred on the wellbeing of all people, democracy and the natural world.
If we are to have a chance of staying below 1.5C of warming, our emissions need to immediately start reducing rapidly towards zero and then on to negative figures. That’s a fact. And since we don’t have all the technical solutions we need to achieve that, we have to work with what we have at hand today. And this has to include stopping doing certain things. That’s also a fact. However, it’s a fact that most people refuse to accept. Just the thought of being in a crisis that we cannot buy, build or invest our way out of seems to create some kind of collective mental short circuit.
This mix of ignorance, denial and unawareness is at the very heart of the problem. As it is now, we can have as many meetings and climate conferences as we want. They will not lead to sufficient changes, because the willingness to act and the level of awareness needed are still nowhere in sight. The only way forward is for society to start treating the crisis like a crisis.