Part three of a three-part series.
If the ice sheets over Greenland and Antarctica were to collapse and melt entirely, the sea level would increase by 200 feet. And if the present warming continues, 200-300 years from now, the Earth again will be free of ice, and sea levels will return to 240 feet higher than present. Of course that's a long time from now. But is it?
Warmer temperatures also dry out the soil faster. The portion of the American West, specifically the area west of the 100th Meridian that receives twenty inches or less of rain annually, has moved nearly 140 miles to the east in the last thirty years. If temperatures continue to increase, within 100 years, the Midwestern bread basket of the US would be significantly less fertile, which would affect agriculture and the economy.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated in 2013 that continued fossil fuel emissions will cause sea levels to rise between one foot and three feet by 2100. These are twice as high as projections by other scientists. Extreme climate change could result in 100 million people pushed down to "extreme poverty" by 2030, based on disrupted agriculture and the spread of malaria and other diseases.
Certainly a two-hundred feet increase in sea levels is a movie-style catastrophe. However on a more practical basis, a five-to-ten foot increase would drown many major cities including New Orleans, Miami, and much of NYC. Many other metropolitan centers worldwide, cities that grew as major seaports, would be devastated. Before the crisis reached that level, the evacuation of many of the Earth's greatest cities would produce millions of refugees and almost unimaginable financial costs. Before that level of chaos occurred, the cities would become largely unlivable due to storm surges and water contamination to sewage and water treatment facilities. Street flooding would make commuting difficult to impossible at times.
There are clear warnings that the ice sheets have entered a phase of dangerous and unknown instability. In Antarctica, two enormous glaciers, "Pine Island" and "Thwaites," sit on a ridge of solid land below sea level. Both are becoming unstable due to the increased temperature of the sea water, and could disintegrate by calving ice bergs so large that a four foot increase in sea level would result.
What would we see in everyday life as these phenomena continue?
(1) Water increasingly will creep into basements of coastal cities.
(2) Water will appear in streets as it will not drain off as the drainage systems increasingly will be backed up.
(3) Brine infiltration of drinking water supplies and sewage plants will occur.
(4) Electrical grids will "spark out" and default more frequently.
(5) Flood insurance will become too expensive and then will be unavailable in more areas.
(6) Home values will plummet in affected areas, and homes will be abandoned in the most critical regions.
(7) Large scale evacuations and population movement will take place in a number of cities worldwide, including NYC, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Hamburg, portions of the Netherlands, Norfolk, etc.
Today, in vivid display we watch stress and social turmoil result as twenty million refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern war zones and African counties reeling from conflict and drought form a human diaspora. Native populations on the receiving end of this migration recoil and nationalistic leaders move to protectionism when demographic fears and resulting economic pressures envelop a population. This is clear now in many European countries as well as the US and others. These situations get very ugly. It can, and does, happen there, and here.
Climate change is a well known physical dynamic. It is underway. Like it or not, it is happening. To deny it, call it a hoax or whatever, is an simplistic attempt to ameliorate the massive changes. It's a virtual crime against humanity, and only bad things will result as changes in the world order follow if mankind does not work together.
The scale of social disruption worldwide will topple governments.
Cheers. Enjoy life, it's the only one we have.
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