This will likely be the least-viewed article I write all week, but it’s difficult to over-emphasize the importance of the topic. This week, scientists from United States, Britain, France and Australia released the results of a study published in Nature Geoscience showing that the Totten Glacier in eastern Antarctica is melting much faster than previously known. The study showed that global warming above, and warmer ocean water below is rapidly decaying the glacier.
This news is lumped on top of a report last year showing that the ice sheet covering western Antarctica is melting as well. When it goes for good, the melted ice sheet could create 10-foot rise in the global sea level within 100 years. And now this. If the Totten Glacier melts completely, add another 11 feet to the sea level. That’s 20-plus feet combined over the next 100 years. If that occurs, say goodbye to, among other places, every coastal region, all of lower Manhattan, all of southern Florida, all of San Diego — everything from the current sea level on up to 20-feet in elevation.
The Totten Glacier is around 90 by 22 miles, but not for long as it’s losing massive volumes of water every year, approximately 70 gigatons, which a representative from the Australian division of the study compared with the entire volume of the harbor in Sydney, Australia.
Here’s exactly why nothing significant will be done to prevent it from happening. No one really cares. The scope is too massive, the time-frames are too lengthy and a sense of futility is almost universal, even among environmentalists. It’s difficult to comprehend making the changes necessary to mitigate the impact of what’s already happening — chiefly because most people don’t grasp that it is. And the changes would require us to curb our meat consumption; we’d have to pay more for cleaner energy sources as well as consumer products; the construction of mass transit would have to be vastly ramped-up and then widely used by commuters — the list is long, and we’re simply not wired for rapid, life-altering changes, especially when it comes to an issue that’s demonized in some circles as a hoax.
Instead, one of my biggest fears will likely play out. As the sense of futility and hubristic denialism grows, the economic and political focus will shift to building infrastructure to prevent the damage from the rising oceans and destructive weather, which we surely have to do, but it could come at the serious expense of investments into slowing or reversing the climate crisis itself. Instead of politically prioritizing clean, renewable, affordable energy and deep restrictions on carbon emissions, it’ll be more expedient to support new spending on seawalls, berms and desalinization projects.
It’s easier for us to understand building things and construction contracts than it is to grasp wonky science, hybrid cars or carbon offsets. Worse yet, half of the country doesn’t believe man-made climate change is actually occurring, while roughly half of those people probably believe the California wild fires are God’s punishment for legal abortions.
According to Gallup, only one-percent of Americans believe “Environment/Pollution” is the most important “non-economic” issue we face today. Of course, the climate crisis is absolutely an economic issue, as well as an environmental one.
Only one percent, even though this is what the southern coast of the U.S., where many deniers live, will look like in 100 years or so.
If you’re just now starting to have children, your grandchildren will probably witness this consequences of this catastrophe, and they won’t be thrilled with the apathy of our generation. But as long as one party is actively campaigning against doing anything at all, even in the face of NASA and Pentagon warnings, and while most of us simply don’t think it’s personal or immediately threatening enough to give a shit, the glaciers and ice shelves will continue to melt and the oceans will continue to rise around us. And future generations will rightfully condemn us for it.