July 10 – An eye-opener worth sharing

In the midst of summer heat, the story of ice and sea level rise

Quick quiz: if all of the ice in the Greenland ice sheet (a massive chunk of frozen water that covers 80 per cent of Greenland, or an area about the size of Quebec) were to melt and flow into the ocean, by how much would sea levels worldwide rise?

  1. 5 millimeters (¼ inch)
  2. 5 centimeters (2 inches)
  3. 50 centimeters (20 inches)
  4. 1 meter (40 inches)
  5. 5 meters (16 feet)

The answer may surprise you; it floored me when I first learned it.  It’s actually none of the above; if all the ice in Greenland melted, global sea levels would rise by seven meters, or 23 feet.

There’s more, I’m afraid.  The Antarctic ice sheet is far bigger; if it too were to melt entirely, sea levels worldwide would rise by about 65 meters, or 210 feet.

To be clear: even the most pessimistic global warming projections conclude that total melting of both sheets would take centuries to happen.  But climate change is like a train: pretty hard to get moving, but pretty hard to slow down once it’s got a bit of momentum.  So it’s a bit distressing to see increased melting happening.

A study published two weeks ago suggests rising sea levels will disrupt the lives of millions of Americans by 2050.  We here in Atlantic Canada are pretty vulnerable too.  This recent CBC piece about flood risks in NB should probably be mandatory viewing for all of us.  CLIVE, a simulator tool developed by UPEI’s Climate Lab, is giving Island residents an unvarnished look at how their properties will look under different sea level rise scenarios.  And the governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are assessing options to protect the low-lying Isthmus of Chignecto from flooding – none of which will be cheap.

The takeaways from all of this?

  • Prevention is usually better than cure, and that’s probably truer for climate change than anything else (because there are many consequences beyond rising sea levels)
  • Climate action may cost – but it’s a virtual certainty that climate inaction will cost far more
  • It’s not too late to prevent the worst impacts of climate change – but we need to move quickly
  • The real, permanent solution is to eliminate fossil fuels as quickly as possible, and get all of our energy from renewables

Three key things you can do:

  • Reduce your transportation emissions by walking, biking, carpooling, taking transit, working from home or going electric
  • Reduce your power consumption by turning things off; investing in efficient equipment like LED lights and ENERGY STAR rated appliances; and making efficiency upgrades to your home where possible
  • Perhaps most importantly: contact your elected leaders and election candidates – particularly those of that one party that still does not seem to understand climate change – to tell them your vote depends on solid climate action (and feel free to contact them repeatedly to help drive that message home)

Surely preventing sea level rise (and other consequences of climate change) is worth our best effort – so let’s make our best effort!

In the news:

Surprise, surprise: climate change is reducing crop yields and pushing up food prices.

Hydro Quebec announces a mega wind farm that will produce as much power as all of NB Power’s generating stations combined.

Visionary: Lego makes employee bonuses conditional on the company achieving its annual emission reduction targets!


“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge… is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.”

  • Bill Bullard (or Plato or George Eliot?)

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