A World Without Ice: A Glimpse into a Scary Future

Melting ice at an alarming rate threatens a catastrophic sea level rise that could reshape our planet, warn scientists

by Sededin Dedovic
A World Without Ice: A Glimpse into a Scary Future
© Mario Tama / Getty Images

If all the ice on Earth melted, our planet would experience a real catastrophe, writes the Upworthy portal. While environmental activists continue to face ignorance, disbelief, or even contempt from a part of the public skeptical of climate change, as they warn of global warming and rapid ice melt, they are joined and supported by more and more scientists who are presenting clear data: ice is disappearing at a rapid rate and the consequences are inevitable.

The cataclysm won't happen overnight, but it needs to be stopped in time. According to a study published in 2021, global ice loss has increased dramatically in the past two decades, jumping from around 760 billion tons per year in the 1990s to over 1.2 trillion tons per year in the 2010s.

Glaciers are melting

Meanwhile, another NASA study of Greenland's ice sheet found that at least 74 major glaciers that terminate in deep ocean waters are seriously undermined and weakened. However, the global scientific community still underestimates the magnitude of this effect and its implications for sea level rise.

"Imagine you removed the feet of the glacier," Erik Rino, co-author of the study and a glacier researcher at NASA's lab, told the Washington Post. "If you melt the legs, the entire body of the glacier will collapse. And that melting is happening faster than we expected," the researcher says.

His opinion is that the danger is great and that sea level rise could come even sooner than some other institutions and associations estimate.

A bleak picture without ice

A few years ago, National Geographic created a visualization of an extreme scenario in which all the ice on Earth suddenly melted.

In collaboration with scientists and universities around the world, they produced an accurate depiction of how Earth would look if sea levels rose by 65 meters. This would require melting ice on continents, which includes snow cover, glaciers and ice sheets, as well as ice in oceans and lakes.

Numerous European cities, such as Brussels and Venice, would be submerged. In Africa and the Middle East, Dakar, Accra and Jeddah would suffer a similar fate. Millions of people in Asian cities like Mumbai, Beijing and Tokyo would be forced to leave their homes due to rising sea levels and forced to move inland.

San Marco square remains covered in flood water days after the second highest tide since 1966 on November 15, 2019 in Venice, It© Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

In South America, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires would disappear underwater.

As for the United States, the world would watch as cities like Houston, San Francisco, New York, and the entire state of Florida slowly sink into the sea.

A warning is sent

Therefore, a warning has been sent: our continued reliance on fossil fuels is relentlessly heating the planet.

A study by scientists from America, Britain and Germany, published in the journal "Science Advances," warns that we have enough fossil fuels on hand to completely melt the Antarctic ice sheet - we can destroy ourselves. "This wouldn't happen overnight, but it's incredible that our actions today are changing the face of the planet and the consequences will be felt for tens of thousands of years to come," said climatologist Ricarda Winkelmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

"If we want to avoid Antarctica running out of ice, we need to keep coal, gas and oil in the ground," she says. During the 1990s, about 0.8 billion tons of ice melted annually, and by 2017 that number had reached as high as 1.2 billion annually.

Globally, atmospheric temperature has risen by about 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial period, but in the Arctic the rate of warming has been more than double the global average over the past 30 years. New studies show that the scenario scientists feared most is becoming increasingly likely.

If the process continues at the same pace, many believe there is a chance that the Arctic will be practically ice-free by 2035. Even if the world meets ambitious goals for limiting global warming, West Antarctica will reach a tipping point of significant ocean warming and ice sheet melt, a new study published in Nature Climate Change has shown.

Ice sheets act like buttresses, helping to hold back land ice, slowing its flow into the sea, and providing an important defense against rising sea levels. As ice sheets melt, they become thinner and lose their supporting capacity.

There was evidence that ice loss in this region of the world could be irreversible, but it was not clear how much climate policies could prevent it. According to this study, even the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement cannot make a significant difference for the ice sheets of West Antarctica.

"These results suggest that mitigating greenhouse gas emissions now has limited power to prevent ocean warming that could lead to the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet," the study says.