By Bill McGuire
Even as thousands of XR foot soldiers bring London to a halt in the name of climate change sanity, the bad news keeps rolling in. The latest despatches from the climate breakdown front point to the last days of the world’s mountain glaciers and the marvellous ecosystems they support. In an earlier post (Asia – Climate Breakdown’s New Front Line), I revealed how the loss of Himalayan glaciers and ice fields feeding Asia’s mighty rivers could lead to widespread famine as they shrink to little more than trickles. Now, it appears, glaciers in western Europe look likely to suffer the same fate. Hardly surprising really, but nonetheless another nail in the coffin of our stable, pre-climate-breakdown world.
What makes the picture painted by the new study (Modelling the future evolution of glaciers in the European Alps under the EURO-CORDEX RCM ensemble) especially bleak, is that even if we act to drastically curtail greenhouse gas emissions, most of the ice locked up in the world’s mountains will not survive until the end of the century. Given a business as usual scenario, the European Alps will be effectively ice-free by 2100; the winter sports business a distant memory. But even if emissions are slashed, two thirds of the ice will still have melted away in a little over eight decades time. Even more dramatically, whatever action we take on the emissions reduction front fully half of the ice locked up in the four thousand or so Alpine glaciers will be gone within barely thirty years.
A second study (Key indicators of Arctic climate change: 1971–2017) for the first time draws together information from both physical and biological systems to show how rising air temperatures are fundamentally transforming the Arctic and the life it supports as the Earth continues to heat up. As the landmark study reveals, the Arctic region’s long stable climate is now following a path into the unknown. The consequences of this are likely to be widespread and catastrophic, not only for the region itself, but also across the world. What happens in the icy wastes of the north is already affecting the climate at more temperate latitudes, such as Europe and North America. Here, the knock-on effects of changes in airflow at high latitudes are driving persistent weather patterns in both winter and summer that result in extreme weather; big freezes and baking heatwaves. Rapid ice melting in the Arctic is also affecting the Gulf Stream and associated ocean currents and has the potential to bring them to a halt or at least precipitate a major slow down. This, in turn, threatens colder winters around the North Atlantic rim along with rapidly rising sea levels along the eastern seaboard of North America.
So, a message to our XR heroes in the London campaign and those bringing the truth about climate breakdown to cities all over the world. Hang on in there. Our planet needs you now more than ever.