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Icebergs in the midnight sun, Ilulissat, Greenland
Earth & Energy

Greenland’s Ice Caps Have Passed the Point of No Return

The news isn't all bad, though.

Chelsea GohdApril 2nd 2017

Goodbye Ice Caps?

In Greenland, the effects of climate change are quickly proving to be drastic and irreversible. Greenland’s coastal glaciers and ice caps have officially melted past the point of no return. That’s right, past the proverbial tipping point, Greenland’s ice is quickly and significantly melting. Now, if this were due to a freak heat wave and conditions returned to normal, it is theoretically possible that the ice would return. But, scientists agree that in current conditions and predicted future conditions, it is incredibly unlikely that this would ever happen.

What might be the scariest part of all is that this tipping point was identified in 1997, and no one noticed us pushing past this point until now.

Thankfully, if such a term can be used here, the ice caps and coastal glaciers are relatively small bodies of ice compared to Greenland’s ice sheet (the second largest ice cache in the world). While this is a massive finding and shows the serious ill-effects of climate change, there is no immediate need for panic. So, please, don’t start bringing bags of ice to Greenland.

Looking to the Future

Now, while there is no dire immediate catastrophe following this news, it is definitely not something to ignore. If these glaciers were to melt fully (researchers predict they will be gone by 2100) they would raise sea levels drastically, by 3.8 cm (1.5 inches). Of course, other large formations of ice will also continue to melt and add to this rising, but that 3.8 cm alone could yield serious consequences.

One positive outcome of this news is, surprisingly, for scientists. Now that we have just passed the tipping point and there is a clear timeline of melting for this ice, scientists have a concrete frame to work within. Though the clock is ticking, it is always advantageous to have as much information as possible. While this information can make you feel a little bit hopeless, it is the key to actually solving the problem at hand.

Technological Fixes for Climate Change
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Speaking of the problem at hand, this melting is no surprising coincidence or casualty of freakish one-time-only warm weather. It is the direct result of climate change—and our contributions to climate change are actually both a blessing and a curse. While it is easy to fret over the havoc brought by the long-term excessive burning of fossil fuels and creation of greenhouse gases, this is a problem that we could instead grab by the horns. Because it’s something we’ve created, that means we have some ability to destroy it. As renewable energy resources become more powerful and more available, and options to detract from (instead of contribute to) climate change become more possible, it is up to us to make the decision to save our planet.

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