In my last post, I touched upon the concept of “tipping points” – irreversible changes to the planet triggering an onset of more dangerous irreversible changes. The truth is, we’ve already crossed one.
The most recent incident is the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet. It’s vulnerable because most of it sits on bedrock that’s below sea level. The warming ocean is melting the floating ice sheet itself from below, causing it to collapse. Since 1992 it has averaged a net loss of 65 million metric tons of ice a year. This collapse likely to cause a sea water rise of 60 meters – a figure that correlates to displacement of 2 billion people on the planet. Ocean currents depend on two factors – water and salinity. Antarctic ice contains 70% of Earth’s fresh water – so if that fresh water were to be released – it might mean more potable water, but it would also mean no more rains turning humid agricultural land to deserts, and warmer ocean currents killing entire aquatic ecosystems.
On the other hand, the Arctic sea ice is also on a record low of 1.6 million miles. And while it is not only shrinking, it is becoming younger and thinner – resulting in a loss of reflectivity or albedo. When sea ice melts, it lowers that reflective cover resulting in more melting and thus more warming – and the cycle continues.
For most of us, the poles may seem too distant for us, but our influence on them is not. The only way to save our planet is to regain our balance with nature – something we have been partially forced into during this coronavirus crisis. As per the United Nations, we have 4 environmental goals to reduce our impact on the planet.
- Phasing out fossil fuels, and replacing with renewable energy.
- Upgrading to efficient food production and reducing meat consumption.
- Manage our oceans by establishing ‘no fishing’ zones. This strategy has already been implemented by certain countries and has shown an overwhelmingly positive response.
- Encouraging trees wherever possible and retaining the wild population.
I shall outline individual measures pertaining to the above goals in my next post. The thing about climate change is that prevention is going to be far cheaper than cure. We’ve reached a point where we have the number to prove climate change. The coronavirus pandemic has shown how tough life is during a lockdown – but we have food supply, fresh water, and clean air to breathe. At the moment, frequent hand-washing to fight coronavirus is heading us into another global crisis of water shortage – remember that 20 seconds of hand-washing doesn’t mean 20 seconds of letting the water run. Each person can save upto 20 liters per day this way. Such thoughtfulness can be incorporated in everyday activities of bathing and washing dishes as well. Multiply this quantity with the population of your country. Now that’s a lot of freshwater saved every day. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of what we can do.