Glaciers, the icy-rocky land, despite being inhabitable for human life are a crucial part of the blue planet which helps it look the way it does. Without them, the temperature would have been unbearably scorching, sea level would have risen drowning most of the coastal lands, freshwater sources would have depleted exponentially. But, experts believe we are living in the era of dying ice, with melting glaciers our hope for a more sustainable planet is also melting away.
But why are the glaciers melting? Why should it concern us? And is it too late to stop this meltdown?
Why Are The Glacier’s Melting?
Though researchers have not been able to pinpoint the exact reason behind liquifying glaciers; increasing global temperature triggered by climate change is believed to be the main driver of the ongoing meltings. Renowned scientist of Ulster University, Dr. Robert McNabb says, “It’s hard to separate the fact that the temperature is what is causing the melt with the fact that humans are, by and large, causing the increase in temperature.”
Globally most of the glaciers are losing mass at an alarming pace. The recent study published in Nature Journal provided a wide-range overview of mass losses bore more than 220,000 glaciers, which is resulting in the accelerating sea level. According to a report derived from studying glaciers globally (except for Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets) using NASA’s Terra satellite from 2000 to 2019; the earth is losing about 267 gigatons of ice every year.
Why Should The Melting Glaciers Concern Us?
The increasing global temperature, the melting ice caps, liquifying glaciers, might not directly concern us, until we are living on a small island in the Pacific ocean, or possess property on any beach. No doubt the rocky, icy melting land is usually far situated from the human population, but the fact that they cover over 10% of the Earth’s land makes their dissolution a cascading event. Here are a few reasons why:
- Only 1.7% of the entire Earth’s water is locked in these glaciers and ice caps, but the majority of the planet’s freshwater, i.e. 68.7% is closed in these majestic ice sheets. The melting of the glaciers is diluting this freshwater into the ocean’s salty water.
- Massive floods on one side and frequent droughts on the other side of the Atlantic.
- Tropical storms, hurricanes in coastal areas like the Gulf of Mexico, etc.
To make the already dire situation of melting glaciers worst, new reports of the global ice-loss survey have highlighted that since the 1990s, the rate of meltdown has increased by nearly 60%. An exclusive figure combined by the Guardian shows that by 2050 one-tenth of the mountain glaciers will have melted even if the world managed to limit its carbon emission and halt the increasing global temperature as decided under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Anything including sharp emission cut by the entire world would not succeed in saving this cataclysmic event. If miraculously we all succeed in cutting the net carbon emission to zero, barely 20% of the meltdown can be procured, the rest 80% is already locked.
Soon, the downstream areas will start witnessing the water boom followed by frequent water busts. On the other hand, the population of the hilly areas which is dependent on these glaciers for drinking water will have to confront a shortage of mountain water. With about 1.9 billion people at risk, mountainous regions of China and India will most probably be the epicenter of this water scarcity.
Some astonishingly alarming “then and now” pictures of melting glaciers is depicting the severity of the matter. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research’s director, Johan Rockström says, “It is the last warning system from science. Science is saying we have learned so much, here are the red flags. We can deviate away but that requires cutting emissions by half every decade and reaching a net-zero world economy in 30 years time.”
Melting Glaciers: The Bright Side
No doubt we have long crossed the threshold, but the bright side is that still, the point of no return is long ahead. Globally leaders are acknowledging the immediate danger hovering over us due to climate change. Many steps are already being taken, a number of developed countries have stepped forward with a robust action plan for cutting their net carbon to zero.
The actions taken today will make huge differences in the second half of the century. The current glacier mass meltdown is projected to be 18%, but it will slow down near the end of the 21st century. Scientists believe that controlling the earth’s temperature, is the only way to halt glacier meltdowns. Once the ice is melted it will take centuries to revive to its original state because it needs to pile up one over another for years.
Dr. McNabb says, “When you see something like this where glaciers are losing mass, it’s getting faster, that sounds really bad. But there’s something that we can do here, we need to act.”