earlier i was reading an article about climate change and melting ice sheets and rising sea levels.
it's not fun reading, per se.
to sum up:
globally there are three major ice sheets, two in antarctica and one in greenland.
the west antarctic ice sheet is the most unstable, and if it disappeared we'd see global see levels rise 8 meters (24 feet).
the greenland ice sheet is unstable, and if it disappeared we'd see global sea levels rise 6 or 7 meters (20 feet).
and east antarctic ice sheet is the biggest, and thus the most stable, but if it disappeared we'd see global sea levels
rise 64 meters (200 feet).
if all three ice sheets disappeared (which unfortunately seems more like a case of 'when' as opposed to 'if') then global sea levels will rise 80 meters (240 feet).
again, the question isn't 'will the ice sheets melt?', but unfortunately it's 'when will the ice sheets melt?'
within the next 50-100 years?
the next 200 years?
and then, to further complicate things, are the issues of melting permafrost and the diminished albedo effect.
permafrost is just what it sounds like: permanent frozen ground. and it's melting. and as it melts it releases
incredible amounts of co2 (and other greenhouse gases, like methane) into the atmosphere.
and as the permafrost melts the rate of climate change increases exponentially (as the warmer it gets the more permafrost is melted and the more permafrost is melted the warmer it gets).
and then there's the albedo effect.
which, simply stated, is that white reflects heat and dark absorbs it.
and when there's a lot of white (snow, ice) on the planet it leads to planetary cooling as heat is reflected back into space.
and when things get darker (less snow and ice) then the planet absorbs more and more heat and is warmed.
so, when the earth warms and ice melts the earth gets darker and absorbs more heat that it would've otherwise reflected back into space.
there's also the issue of shorter winters with less snow and ice. shorter winters make for less snow cover, which makes for more heat being absorbed by the earth.
climate change is already happening, and increasingly we're seeing the consequences of a warming planet (bigger storms, more flooding, etc).
but the more depressing fact is that as the earth warms the rate at which it warms will increase, possibly dramatically (especially with the melting of the permafrost).
and the warmer the earth gets the more the systems by which it's being warmed accelerate. which warms the earth further. etc etc ad infinitum.
the last time the earth was as warm as it is now was, roughly, 3 million years ago. and 3 million years ago sea levels were, roughly, 70 feet higher than they are now.
sorry for all of the overwhelming and depressing information on climate change. but maybe, somehow, as a species we'll finally act to limit climate change. i mean, honestly, i doubt that we will, but one can always hope.
and in the meantime it might be wise to consider buying beach front property in colorado.