In a conference call with reporters last month, NASA scientists expressed alarm about the pace at which both Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice.
The New Yorker reports in "If We Burned All the Fossil Fuel in the World" on a new report on fossil-fuels.
"What would happen if we burned through all of the fossil-fuel resources known to exist? In a paper published today in the journal Science Advances, a quartet of German, American, and British researchers take on this question. The answer, not surprisingly, is grim. If mankind managed to combust the world’s known conventional deposits of coal, gas, and oil, and then went on to consume all of its “unconventional” ones, like tar-sands oil and shale gas, the result would be emissions on the order of ten trillion tons of carbon. Average global temperatures would soar, and the world would remain steamy for millennia. After ten thousand years, the planet would still be something like fourteen degrees Fahrenheit hotter than it is today. All of the world’s mountain glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet would melt away; Antarctica, too, would eventually become pretty much ice free. Sea levels would rise by hundreds of feet.
The new paper, a sort of climate modeller’s version of “Waterworld,” arrives amid a steady drip of bad news from the poles. Though so far we’ve succeeded in burning only a small fraction of the world’s known fossil-fuel resources—“resources” includes fuels that are currently considered too costly to extract—sea levels, it seems, are already rising quickly. They are climbing by 3.2 millimetres per year, which comes to an inch and a quarter a decade, and the rate appears to be accelerating. One of the major contributors to sea-level rise right now is what’s known as thermal expansion: as water warms, it takes up more space, so as sea temperatures increase the volume of the oceans also grows. Thermal expansion will continue, but in the coming decades its effect is likely to be dwarfed by the volume of water melting off the ice sheets. In a conference call with reporters last month, NASA scientists expressed alarm about the pace at which both Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice. They suggested that the sea-level-rise forecasts in the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—up to 3.2 feet by the end of the century—may soon be overtaken, or inundated, by events."