Posts Tagged ‘adapting to global warming’

Melting Ice

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

A new iceberg has been calved from the Antarctic continental ice sheet. It’s a tongue of the Mertz Glacier, not too far from the West Antarctic Peninsula. Relative to the size of the continent, it’s small, but the continent is huge, and the iceberg is the size of Luxemburg, or half the size of Prince Edward Island, depending on where you are from. It will drift slowly with the current that circulates around the continent, and will slowly melt. It may or may not have a disrupting effect on the current.

The huge iceberg that has broken off of Mertz Glacier (NASA)

Parts of the Antarctic ice shelf have been declining for the past few decades, just as glaciers in the rest of the world have been receding. The ice of the Arctic Icecap has thinned and shrunk. These are well documented events. Deniers of climate change can deny what they wish, but the evidence won’t just melt away.

Because of the thinning and melting ice in the Arctic, coastal villages have had to begin to ‘adapt’. With the melting of the ocean ice, ice shelves along the western shore of Alaska and in the Mackenzie Delta have been lost. The coastal frozen sub-soils have been melting. Protection from storm surges has been reduced. Some villages are planning to build dikes. The village of Newtok, on the coast of Western Alaska, is moving to higher ground, 9 miles up the Ningluck river.

Coastal village of Newtok, Alaska: time to move.

And so it begins. Adaptation. Not prevention, not mitigation. Any imminent legislation limiting carbon emissions in the US appears increasingly unlikely. In Canada, the new federal budget pretty well eliminates research on climate change, and in any case the current Canadian government will take no action before the US does.

If adaptation becomes our only option, then we have consciously made ourselves into victims of our own actions. Seems a pity. Still, as Winston Churchill may have said, “Never give up!”