The cryosphere, encompassing the Earth’s ice masses – notably Antarctica, the Arctic, the Greenland Ice Sheet and glacial systems, is currently under threat from the impacts of climate change. If mitigation or adaptation methods are not implemented sooner rather than later, the impact of a globally melting world will affect everyone on this planet in one way or another. This blog will attempt to answer two remaining questions which are currently unanswered; 1) Can we survive? And 2) Have we reached a point of no return? But first we must understand why the Earth in noticing increased temperatures.
Current records show that the Earth is undergoing a warming period like any other seen in recent history. As seen in data provided from the IPCC, between 1880 and 2012, warming has been recorded at about 0.85oC with most of this warming being seen post World War II era. Using temperature reconstruction models, it is evident that temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere and around the world have rocketed above the norm. This has been deduced to anthropogenic activities over the past 100 years, through the increasing production of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and activities which alter the environmental conditions.
So why is this happening and what are the consequences which have followed? Well, this could be linked to the evermore globalised and interconnected world we live in, combined with further technological advances over the past 150 years and a growing global population. The increasing use of the finite fossil fuels we have left on this planet to not only produce goods for purchase, but to make daily lives easier, has seen a rise in dangerous Greenhouse Gas Emissions such as CO2. This ‘thickening of the Earth’s blanket’ has meant that rates of radiative forcing have increased, leading to a warming of the Earth. But what are the consequences of this warming? The list of problems created is endless. In all biomes and environments around the world, climate change has impacted them all in some form with arguably the most notable changes occurring in the cryosphere. This recognition of an altering planet is the reason why scientists such as Gabrielle Walker have questioned if we have reached the point of no return. Can we survive this warming period, and if we can, how are we already adapting to survive in a frightfully altering Earth?