Ominous Acceleration of Antarctica Ice Melt
Antarctica, Earth’s largest store of freshwater, is losing ice at a rapidly increasing pace. According to new research, of the 2.71 trillion metric tons of ice lost from 1992 to 2017, half was lost in the past five years. Over the same period, the annual rate of ice loss from West Antarctica nearly tripled, rising from 59 to 159 billion metric tons per year. If all ice on the continent melted, sea levels would eventually rise by 58 meters, although, with the ice miles thick, this catastrophe is not imminent. Still, if current trends continue, global sea levels could rise by a meter by 2070 (with one fourth of that a result of Antarctic meltwater). Such melting would undoubtedly wreak havoc on coastal communities and ecosystems around the world. Whether or not it happens, however, is a matter of politics, not fate. We can redouble efforts to rein in greenhouse gas emissions—or create a water-world dystopia of our own making.