Updated: Feb 10, 2021
Why are our polar regions being destroyed? Why, after all this time and research, does no one care? Is it because no one lives there except animals? How is that a valid reason?
At the root of this phenomenon is human activity. Since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions have raised temperatures globally, and as a result, glaciers are rapidly melting, calving off into the sea and retreating on land. Scientists project that, if left unchecked, the Arctic could be ice free in the summer as soon as the year 2040, as ocean and air temperatures continue to rise rapidly.
But why does this matter? Ice acts like a protective cover over Earth and our oceans. These areas of pure, brilliant white reflect excess heat back into space and prevent our planet from overheating, and give us the habitable conditions we need to live.
Glaciers around the world can range from ice that's several hundred to several hundred thousand years old, and can provide scientific record of how climate has changed over time. Studying this gives us valuable insight into the extent at which the planet is rapidly warming and how climate has changed over time.
Today, about 10% of land area on Earth is covered with glacial ice. Almost 90% is in Antarctica, while the remaining 10% is in the Greenland ice cap. Right now, the Greenland ice sheet is disappearing four times faster than in 2003 and already contributes to 20% of current sea level rise.
Rapid glacial melt in these areas also influences ocean currents, as massive amounts of excess water entering the ocean causes these currents to slow down. These currents regulate global climate and sustain animal migration patterns and different underwater environments- thus, changing them will have a massive and irreversible affect on our flora and fauna.
All of these changes have consequences. Rising sea levels increase coastal erosion and elevates storm surge as warmer air and ocean temperatures create more frequent and higher intensity coastal storms such as hurricanes and typhoons.
As ice melts, darker patches of ocean start to emerge, eliminating the effect that previously cooled the poles, creating warmer air temperatures and in turn disrupting normal patterns of ocean circulation. The glacial melt we're witnessing today is changing the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean and has been linked to the collapse of fisheries in the Gulf of Maine and more destructive storms and hurricanes around the world.
Industries that thrive on vibrant fisheries will be affected as warmer waters change where and when fish spawn. Coastal communities will face extortionately high disaster recovery bills as flooding and natural disaster events become more frequent and more intense. Wildlife like walruses and polar bears are losing their homes and dying off.
We need change desperately, and we need it now.
Scientists say that "Even if we significantly curb emissions in the coming decades, more than a third of the world's remaining glaciers will melt before the year 2100. When it comes to sea ice, 95% of the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic is already gone".
While nothing we do now will bring the ice back or reverse the effects overnight, it would be a step in the right direction. So, what could help?
Glaciers melt naturally, but in the usual course of things, they're also restored by additional snowfall. Because of global warming both preventing the normal levels of snowfall and increasing the speed at which the glaciers melt, we have to, in short, stop global warming to stop the melt.
Reduce your carbon footprint- read my article about the top five ways you can reduce your carbon footprint today for more ideas
Use alternative energy sources- since global warming is causes by en enhances greenhouse effect, which is exacerbated by our reliance of the use of greenhouse gases, using energy sources that don't rely on the use of greenhouse gases is an obvious answer. Solar panels, wind turbines and hydropower are all examples that can be employed at small and large scales for our use, and are renewable energy sources- i.e. they will never run out.
Drive less- alternative options are also suggested in my article about reducing your carbon footprint today with five different ideas
Save power at home- turn the water off when brushing your teeth and only use it when your need it, turn off lights and electronics when not in use, hang laundry up instead of using a tumble-drier- these are all small, easy, inexpensive steps that we can all do today that will help
Pressure governments to take this more seriously- join a charity, participate in a climate strike, educate yourself, petition and pressure your governments, from a local to a national scale, to move towards renewable energy sources, to ban the use of petrol cars, to build more electric car re-charge points to encourage their use... just get involved!
I hope this article has helped you to understand why our ice is melting and what can be done. Do let me know if you try any of these out and how it goes, or any tips you think are worth sharing!
Let's all CARE MORE about our environment.