We already knew global warming was serious, but now we can put a number on it. New research has found the Earth lost 28 trillion tonnes (yes, trillion with a “t”) of ice since 1994.
The paper’s authors, from the University of Leeds, University of Edinburgh and University College London, called the loss “staggering” and “mind-blowing”.
“To put the losses we’ve already experienced into context, 28 trillion tonnes of ice would cover the entire surface of the UK with a sheet of frozen water that is 100 metres thick,” researcher Tom Slater told The Observer.
There’s no doubt this loss is caused by global warming, they wrote, but the ways in which the ice melt are varied.
For example, Antarctica is losing ice due to warmer oceans, while ice in the Himalayas is melting due to a warmer atmosphere. For somewhere like Greenland, both the oceans and the atmosphere play a role.
Speaking of Greenland, the situation there is pretty fkn dire. This year marks record-breaking ice loss for the island, and there are already talks about whether we’ve passed the point of no return.
According to the researchers’ modelling, sea levels could rise a whole a metre by 2100 if we don’t sort our shit out ASAP.
“To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands,” Professor Andy Shepherd also told the newspaper.
Obviously there’s no silver lining in any of this, but there is one piece of information that makes it slightly less terrifying, though no less serious: around half of the ice that’s been lost ice came from ice shelves as opposed to, say, glaciers.
“These float on water and their melting would not have contributed to sea level rises,” researcher Isobel Lawrence said.
“The other 46% of meltwater came from glaciers and ice sheets on the ground, and they would have added to sea level rise.”