Environmentalists and researchers have been talking for years about global warming and its numerous implications on the environment. Flight delays caused by extreme weather conditions, calamities and climate changes all points out to this phenomenon. However, there is one consequence of global warming that has been brought to the awareness of the people. This is the argument that it has been dramatically contributing to the melting of ice caps. Does it really have a hand in the disappearance of ice caps?
Global warming is defined as the rise of temperature on the oceans, atmosphere and the surface of the earth. These changes have been studied and recorded by scientists even two centuries ago, with figures indicating a rise of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit during the last 100 years. And if the findings of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are correct, there is an expected rise between 2 to 11.5 degrees by the next century. This is quite an alarming concern humanity has to face if there will be no action taken to address this looming threat.
Although scientists consider global warming as a natural occurrence that has been present for hundreds of years, they are concerned of how human activities have affected its rate.
How Does Global Warming Work?
The heating of the earth’s atmosphere occurs with its interaction with the heat that comes from the sun. This process is what is known as the greenhouse effect. As solar radiation passes enters the atmosphere, it gets absorbed by a number of gases which in return causes latter to heat up. The more gases there are in the air, the warmer it gets. And with the ongoing activities of humans on a daily basis, global warming reaches higher heights which melts the glaciers and ice caps.
What Are The Greenhouse Gases?
The most common gas emitted in the atmosphere is CO2, which became prevalent in the age of Industrial Revolution. Nowadays, it comes not only from factories but also from the cars driven by people. With millions of cars plying the streets globally, the presence of this gas in the atmosphere has increased drastically. Burning of fossil fuels as well as deforestation had also been considered responsible for carbon emissions. When trees are cut or burned, they release carbon in the air.
Although not as common as CO2, Methane is far more dangerous. It can come from natural forms but environmentalists say that humans contribute a lot to the releasing of this gas in the atmosphere. These activities include mining, raising livestock and building landfills.
What Is An Ice Cap?
It is an ice mass with an area not exceeding 50,000 kilometers of land. This is a type of glacier that can be found in polar and sub-polar regions. On the other hand, if the area covered by an ice mass exceeds 50,000 kilometers, it is then called an ice sheet. In a nutshell, ice caps are considered miniature ice sheets.
Scientists have recorded how the rise in temperature on the Earth’s atmosphere has caused changes in the salinity levels and temperature of oceans as well as on ice caps and sheets. Almost 80% of the snow in Kilimanjaro has melted since 1912 while ice in the Arctic Sea has been thinning for the last fifty years. What is more alarming is the fast thinning, melting and disappearance of ice caps and sheets as evident in the documentaries shown about equatorial glaciers in Indonesia, Switzerland and Peru.
As the temperature rises, the melting of glaciers will also become more rapid. In fact, there are already signs scientists pointed out by scientists.
List of Indications
1. Quelccaya ice cap used to be the largest in the tropics. With its continuous melting however, experts are fearing its complete disappearance by 2100 and the effects it can bring to people who rely on it for electricity and drinking water.
2. Another evidence of the effect of global warming on the rupturing of ice glaciers is the cracking of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf in the Arctic which began in 2000. It used to be a large area of ice which has been present 3,000 years ago. Now, it has been shed into pieces.
3. NASA also has images of the Polar ice cap indicating that it shrunk more than 20% since the year 1979. Meanwhile, in just a period of two years, between 2005 to 2007, more than half a million square miles of ice have disappeared in the Arctic Sea. According to scientists, if this continues, it will be completely gone in 2040. They also say that with the speed of melting, Glacier National Park will be totally gone from the map come 2070. There are only 25 glaciers remaining from what used to be 150 in the National Park in Montana.
How Will These Consequences Affect The People?
The melting of the ice in the Arctic has not only affected people but also the animals that have considered it home. With the breaking into pieces of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, many inhabitants like the walruses, whales, seals and Polar bears have to migrate somewhere else in order to sustain themselves. This in turn affected the people who rely on hunting these animals for food.
Another effect is the rise of sea levels. When this happens, drinking water can get contaminated and soil erosion will also be a problem. Coastal flooding and storm surges are also concerns that people should worry about. Extreme weather conditions as well as hurricanes are more likely to occur.
Food production and agriculture will also be badly hit by the effect of global warming. Wheat farmers in Kansas, for example, rely on cold air masses coming from the Arctic. If the ice disappears, the temperature in Kansas will be warmer, making it impossible for them to grow wheat.
Is There Any Way People Can Address The Problem?
Since humans are partly responsible for the rate of global warming, they can also help solve the problem. Environmentalists are pushing on mitigating its effects by encouraging people to use more energy-efficient fuels for cars and to think of alternative ways to travel such as the use of bicycles. Recycling and reusing are also recommended so as to lessen the demand for more trees to be cut and more fossil fuels to be burned. Simple ways can be done to fight global warming and lower the rate of melting ice caps. By being responsible and aware of what’s happening to the environment and through the efforts of leaders around the world, this concern can be given the attention and solution it needs.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.