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Thursday, 14 June 2018 05:07

Ice Loss in Antarctica Triples in 10 Years

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antarcticajpg2Ice melt in Antarctica is increasing. (Photo: Tak)

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In the midst of a presidential administration and Republican majority in Congress that deny the reality of global warming, factual research continues to indicate the looming disaster of climate change. However, due to the mainstream corporate media focus on the spectacle of Trump, there is little sustained coverage of the peril that awaits us, even though the warning signs are occasionally reported on. Furthermore, the "alternative facts" of the climate deniers stifle intensive coverage of the ruinous future due to relative inaction on reducing carbon and methane emissions.

On June 13 The Washington Post reported on a study that has just been released:

Antarctica’s ice sheet is melting at a rapidly increasing rate, now pouring more than 200 billion tons of ice into the ocean annually and raising sea levels a half-millimeter every year, a team of 80 scientists reported Wednesday.

The melt rate has tripled in the past decade, the study concluded. If the acceleration continues, some of scientists’ worst fears about rising oceans could be realized, leaving low-lying cities and communities with less time to prepare than they had hoped.

The result also reinforces that nations have a short window — perhaps no more than a decade — to cut greenhouse-gas emissions if they hope to avert some of the worst consequences of climate change.

In the period from 2012-2017, Antarctica lost 219 billion tons of ice each year, according to The Post. The article reveals a stunning comparison to that figure: "From 1992 through 1997, Antarctica lost 49 billion tons of ice annually." That's an increase of 170 billion tons of ice melt.

With a continued rise in sea levels, as The Post notes, cities and communities that are located on the ocean are in jeopardy. Rising sea levels will gradually erode the shorelines of these population centers and eventually flood them. These include such major cities in the United States as New York, Miami and Los Angeles. In fact, the entire Eastern and Western seaboard are being threatened in the absence of reversing climate change. Ominously, there is no emergency and comprehensive plan that would reverse this trend. The Paris accord -- which Trump pulled out of -- has voluntary goals for nations and falls short of fully tackling the accelerating global warming threat.

As an article in this week's Time about the new revelations notes:

In Antarctica, it’s mostly warmer water causing the melt. The water nibbles at the floating edges of ice sheets from below. Warming of the southern ocean is connected to shifting winds, which are connected to global warming from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, Shepherd said.

More than 70 percent of the recent melt is in West Antarctica.

Twila Moon, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center who wasn’t part of the studies, said “ice-speaking, the situation is dire.”

Dire indeed. However, beyond the media focus on Trump as ringmaster of a circus, there is an additional challenge in coming to terms with climate change. In a society that responds to what is happening today and has little interest in safeguarding the future, the warning signs of the devastating effect of global warming appear, to many, to be too distant in their implications. The United States is not a nation that places a priority on what might occur down the road. Mainstream corporate news coverage emphasizes what is happening contemporaneously, not problems of the future.

The Associated Press story on the study emphasizes how thorough and evidence-based the research is: "Unlike single-measurement studies, this team looks at ice loss in 24 different ways using 10 to 15 satellites, as well as ground and air measurements and computer simulations, said lead author Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds in England."

Shepherd also squarely laid the blame on climate change:

“Under natural conditions we don’t expect the ice sheet to lose ice at all,” Shepherd said. “There are no other plausible signals to be driving this other than climate change.”

These are the facts, not the "alternative facts," and they should be the cause of sustained alarm and remediation. Otherwise, we are left with the likes of climate deniers brushing back the mass media on reporting on the impending threat.

Imbie, the organization that released the study, notes on its website:

Sea level rise is likely to continue at an even faster rate during the 21st century. It is also predicted to affect more than 95% of the world’s oceans by 2100, with 70% of coastlines experiencing rising sea levels.

As noted earlier, we are not a country that has long-term vision about preventing disasters. Furthermore, we are up against a Republican wall of opposition to acknowledging that climate change is made by humans. Take Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), a leading climate denier, who said in a 2017 floor speech in the Senate:

The hoax is that some in the far left believe man controls changes in the climate and we’ve endured eight years of an administration that buys into the alarmists’ mentality that the world is coming to an end due to man-made gases. That’s the hoax.

No, it's not a hoax. It's an attempt to salvage the planet based on scientific -- not spurious -- facts.