Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

No sheet

Melting ice in Antarctica could mean big problems for the human race.

No sheet



I used to post more about global warming/climate change in the earlier days of Attytood (yes, it's been around so long that there are now "earlier days.") The issue never went away -- in fact the crisis has grown more dire, as highlighted this time last year when carbon dioxide passed the no-turning-back 400 ppm threshold. But writing about it seemed like a zero-sum game -- the near unanimity of the world's climatologists on the reality of man-made global warming never changed or wavered, nor did the reaction of blog commenters who cite whatever the latest ExxonMobil- or Koch-Brothers-sponsored research is (as you'll surely read tonight, in the comments below.)

But sometimes, it's necessary to remind people, and this seems to be one of those times:

The collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in West Antarctica appears to have begun and is almost certainly unstoppable, with global warming accelerating the pace of the disintegration, two groups of scientists reported Monday.

The finding, which had been feared by some scientists for decades, means that a rise in global sea level of at least 10 feet may now be inevitable. The rise may continue to be relatively slow for at least the next century or so, the scientists said, but sometime after that it will probably speed up so sharply as to become a crisis.

“This is really happening,” said Thomas P. Wagner, who runs NASA’s programs on polar ice and helped oversee some of the research. “There’s nothing to stop it now. But you are still limited by the physics of how fast the ice can flow.”

Two papers scheduled for publication this week, in the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters, attempt to make sense of an accelerated flow of glaciers seen in parts of West Antarctica in recent decades.

Of course, there is a silver lining -- I won't live long enough, probably, to see North Wildwood become the new American Venice. It will be up to my great-grandchildren to fix the mess that my generation refused to deal with. It's too bad, though, that I won't be around to see how future textbooks deal with the fact that U.S. Republicans were investigating Benghazi for the 37th time while the world drowned.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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