What can I do to help?
Strong action on climate change means preparing communities for impacts that are happening now. But it also means looking to the future, focused on reducing the heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere that will bring damaging consequences as our planet warms.
The good news is that individuals can play a big part on both fronts with just a few simple changes.
First, reach out to your local elected officials to find out if your city has a disaster response plan for right now. Keeping communities’ safe starts by having a strong plan in place that leverages some of the best, but underutilized tools we have to protect or communities: nature.
And when it comes to reducing emissions, you can make a few simple changes to your daily routine to lower your carbon footprint.
What are the effects of melting glaciers on sea level rise?
Melting glaciers add to rising sea levels, which in turn increases coastal erosion and elevates storm surge as warming air and ocean temperatures create more frequent and intense coastal storms like hurricanes and typhoons. Specifically, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are the largest contributors of global sea level rise. Right now, the Greenland ice sheet is disappearing four times faster than in 2003 and already contributes 20% of current sea level rise.
How much and how quickly these Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melt in the future will largely determine how much ocean levels rise in the future. If emissions continue to rise, the current rate of melting on the Greenland ice sheet is expected to double by the end of the century. Alarmingly, if all the ice on Greenland melted, it would raise global sea levels by 20 feet.
How do melting sea ice and glaciers affect weather patterns?
Today, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere on earth, and the sea ice there is declining by more than 10% every 10 years. As this ice melts, darker patches of ocean start to emerge, eliminating the effect that previously cooled the poles, creating warmer air temperatures and in turn disrupting normal patterns of ocean circulation. Research shows the polar vortex is appearing outside of the Arctic more frequently because of changes to the jet stream, caused by a combination of warming air and ocean temperatures in the Arctic and the tropics.
The glacial melt we are witnessing today in Antarctic and Greenland is changing the circulation of the Atlantic Ocean and has been linked to collapse of fisheries in the Gulf of Maine and more destructive storms and hurricanes around the planet.
What are the effects of melting glaciers and sea ice loss on humans and wildlife?
What happens in these places has consequences across the entire globe. As sea ice and glaciers melt and oceans warm, ocean currents will continue to disrupt weather patterns worldwide. Industries that thrive on vibrant fisheries will be affected as warmer waters change where and when fish spawn. Coastal communities will continue to face billion-dollar disaster recovery bills as flooding becomes more frequent and storms become more intense. People are not the only ones impacted. In the Arctic, as sea ice melts, wildlife like walrus are losing their home and polar bears are spending more time on land, causing higher rates of conflict between people and bears.