If you follow the news at all, you’ll have learned that last week was a “holy shit” moment in the accelerating process of climate change.
The West Antarctica ice sheet is collapsing, and last week scientists announced that the collapse had become irreversible. Here’s what that means:
1. Sea levels will rise of 10 feet on all American coasts.
By the year 2100, conservative estimates predict that we’ll see a sea level rise of at least 10 feet, caused by the melting of the Western Antarctic ice sheet. That will affect the 39% of Americans who live in coastal cities. Here’s how a 10-foot sea level rise would affect New York City:
That’s right. The sea level will look just like the 10-foot deep storm surge from Hurricane Sandy. Only it won’t be storm surge. It will be the normal ocean level, covering New York City.
Here’s what that will look like in the shore town of Belmar, NJ:
2. Sea level rise has already affected New Yorkers.
Sea levels rose over a foot in the last century, which meant that 80,000 more people were affected by flooding after Superstorm Sandy. It’s likely that some of the 125 people who died in the storm – mainly by drowning – would still be alive if climate change had not raised sea levels.
The image above shows the funeral of Brendan Moore, 2, and Connor Moore, 4, who died by drowning after they were swept away from their mother.
3. Sea level rise will soon harm thousands of Floridians.
Within 30 years, $71 billion of Florida property could be flooded every five years, since it is on land less than two feet above the high tide line.
4. These scenarios may be only the tip of the (melting) iceberg.
The scenarios above are now almost certainly going to happen. There’s no reversing the West Antarctica ice melt.
But something much worse will happen if other, much bigger ice sheets are allowed to collapse. Scientists warn that Greenland’s ice sheet – which is far larger than West Antarctica – is more vulnerable than they previously thought.
5. It’s not too late to act.
Glaciologist Richard Alley of Penn State – a rare scientist who is also a Republican – says that the West Antactica news “makes saving Greenland absolutely essential,” he told Mother Jones. “If anything, this new news [about West Antarctica] just makes our decisions more important, and more powerful.”