Rising levels have been a concern for decades. Since the 1900, sea levels have risen 7.87 inches. However, an ice shelf the size of New York City that collapsed in March might have permanently turned the tides on the rate at which levels are increasing. The Glenzer Conger ice shelf in East Antarctica collapsed between March 14th and 16th. Even more concerning than the collapse itself is that scientists were not expecting it. The ice shelf was previously thought to be stable and unaffected by climate change.
This collapse is the first time the region has experienced an ice shelf collapse in human history. After the region’s temperatures soared 70°F higher than usual, the area shrank rapidly. In fact, since 2020, the ice shelf is now losing about half of its mass every month. This new information is disastrous as the water frozen in the East Antarctic ice sheet would raise sea levels by more than 160 feet. This is five times the amount estimated from the West Antarctic ice sheet, which has been the focus of research up until this point since it was thought to be more unstable.
The reason that the science community has been studying the West Antarctic Ice Sheet so closely is because of the appropriately nicknamed “Doomsday” Glacier, also known as the Thwaites Glacier, that is preventing the ice sheet from sliding–and then melting–into the ocean. Global sea levels will rise by approximately two feet if the Glacier melts completely. This would be devastating. Coastal cities as we know them would be irrevocably affected. Some islands would become fully submerged. Peter Davis, an oceanographer at the British Antarctic Survey, revealed, “We can’t really do anything to stop this from happening,” other than reduce emissions to try and slow down the collapse. It is currently predicted that the Thwaites Glacier could collapse in the next five years.
Since the Glenzer Conger Ice Shelf’s collapse was so unexpected, we will most likely see a surge of new research with more accurate predictions on the ice shelf’s stability. Although it would take hundreds of years for the entire East Antarctic ice shelf to melt and raise the sea levels, the slow progress is still extremely concerning if the ice shelf turns out to not be stable.
We no longer have the time to continue being this indifferent about our actions. I am not talking about your or my individual actions. For decades now, the actions of these giant corporations have put their own profits ahead of the well-being of the communities that are directly affected by their everyday actions, and the planet that we all share must change. The governments that were initially set up to protect us must stop choosing these big businesses over the people. It is time to change.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash