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The world has long passed the point of no return when it comes to man-made climate change. Because people continue to burn fossil fuels for power, the damage to the planet’s ecosystem has been done.
University of Bremen and Innsbruck researchers said that it is no longer possible to prevent the continued melting of the polar ice caps that will happen this century. The process can be slowed down by changing our behavior. However, even if all the gas-guzzling polluting technology are immediately turned off, the world will still end up witnessing significantly reduced ice reserves by 2100, Outer Place reported.
Cannot be prevented
A study said that the further melting of glaciers cannot be prevented in the current century, even if all emissions were stopped now. Because of the slow reaction of the glaciers to climate change, human behavior has a massive effect beyond the 21st century.
Scientists said that in the long run, driving 500 meters using a mid-range vehicle will cost one kilogram of glacier ice. One kilogram of carbon dioxide emitted will cost 15 kilograms of glacier ice.
Science Daily noted that in the Paris Agreement, 195 member-states of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to limit the increase in global average temperature to significantly below 2 degrees Celsius. If it is possible, they also will try to target 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
While it would significantly cut the risk of climate change, the researchers calculated the effects of compliance with these climate goals on the progressive melting of glaciers. Georg Kaser from the Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences at the University of Innsbruck pointed out that melting glaciers have a huge influence on the development of sea level rise. Based on their computations, Kaser said that they took into account all glaciers worldwide, but excluded the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and peripheral glaciers, and modeled it into various climate scenarios.
He said that there would be no significant difference in the development of glacier mass loss over the next century whether the average temperature goes up by 2 degrees Celsius or by 1.5 degrees. Kaser said that around 36 percent of the ice stored in glaciers today would melt even without further emissions of greenhouse gases.
It means that more than one-third of the glacier ice that exists today in mountain glaciers can no longer be saved even with the most ambitious measures. However, he said that beyond the current century, it will make a difference if the 2 or 1.5-degree goal is reached.
Kaser explained that glaciers react slowly to climatic changes. A temperature level from the pre-industrial times must be reached if the world wants to preserve the current volume of glacial ice. However, he noted that it is obviously not possible.
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It means that our current behavior has an effect on the long-term evolution of the glaciers. People should be aware of it.
To make these effects felt, the scientists have computed that every kilogram of carbon dioxide emitted today will cause 15 kilograms of glacier melt in the long term. Ben Marzelon, from the Institute of Geography at the University of Bremen, said that based on calculations for an average newly registered car in Germany in 2016, one kilogram of glacier ice is lost for every 500 meters that car moves.
Futurism reported that scientists are suggesting some crazy last-ditch solutions to the problem. One proposal is to build a wall 100 meters high across the five-kilometer fjord in front of the Jakoshavn glacier in Greenland. The purpose of the wall is to block warm water from reaching the sea.
Another proposal, reported in Nature, called for the creation of an archipelago of artificial islands to support the most vulnerable glaciers in West Antarctica to stop warmer waters from circulating. There is also a suggestion to pump cooled brine under the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica to slow down the ice melt from below.
These projects would cost billions of dollars and disrupt the environment in ways we cannot fully predict, the authors of the study from China, Finland, and the US acknowledged. However, they said that those plans are becoming not only necessary but economically competitive because not acting on the climate will be even more expensive. The researchers said that without coastal protection, the global cost of damages could reach $50 trillion a year.
The authors said that they understand the hesitation to interfere with glaciers because as glaciologists, they too know the pristine beauty of these places. However, they have also stood on ice shelves that are now open ocean. The scientists warned that if the world would do nothing, the ice sheets will keep shrinking and the losses will accelerate. Even if GHG emissions are reduced, it would take decades for the climate to stabilize.
[researchpaper 리서치페이퍼=Vittorio Hernandez 기자]