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May 26, 2019

Climate crisis

Editorial

 
May 26, 2019

How much should we fear climate change? According to scientists, more than we do at the moment. Scientists are revising their projections of the impact of climate change – and it is worse than existing projections. In a major revision of estimates of how high sea levels could rise, a new study has suggested that the rise could be as high as two metres – or 6.5 feet – by the end of this century. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had previously predicted that the existing scenario would lead to a one metre rise by the same time period. However, satellites have continued to show accelerated rates of melting from massive ice sheets on top of Antarctica and Greenland, which would lead to a much higher rise in sea levels. Scientists have noted that predicting the rates at which ice will melt as the planet heats up is a tricky task, but that there is enough knowledge to know that if all the water in the two regions were to melt, it would lead to dozens of metres of sea level rise.

While the prediction itself might not come true, the scientists have highlighted how high the risk from climate change is. At least 180 million people would be displaced if sea level rises by two metres, which would leave an area the size of Western Europe uninhabitable. While we know that sea levels have changed over millions of years, there is real fear that unless we begin to take concrete actions within the next few years, humanity could push itself to the point of no return. The need for a drastic cut down in the use of fossil fuels and the need to move to renewables cannot be emphasised enough, given the current gloomy scenario. Knowledge of the future is not enough to save ourselves from the inevitable. While the current numbers are from independent reports, they question the limits of the UN’s own study of sea level rise and raise pertinent questions about how unprepared we are. We might need more studies of the impact of climate change, but we must not forget that the time to act is now.

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