Climate change crisis: ‘We won’t know how bad it will be until it has happened’

Since 1975, the world has been warming at an alarming rate, with scientists stating that the global temperature has risen by roughly 0.15-0.20C per decade. While this figure seems relatively low, global warming is undoubtably having an effect on the polar ice caps which continue to melt.

Since 1979, the volume of ice in the Arctic, or North Pole, has shrunk by an astonishing 80 percent – which scientists have warned will cause major sea level rises.

If just the West Antarctic Ice sheet, where the Pine Island Glacier is, were to completely melt, sea levels would rise by three metres.

Climate models have shown that a sea level rise of more than two metres could permanently submerge large parts of the British coastline with the likes of Hull, Peterborough, Portsmouth and parts of East London and the Thames Estuary all under threat.

The planet has already seen an increase of 1C compared to pre-industrial levels which will contribute massively to the melting of the ice caps and subsequent sea level rise.

As it stands, sea levels are rising at about 8mm a year due to melting ice, and while that does not seem like much, the implications for future generations could be huge.

Between 1993 and 2014, sea levels rose by 66mm – or roughly 3mm per year. If it continues at the current rate, or gets faster, it could mean coastal cities such as New York could be submerged by the end of the century.

However, experts will not know just how bad things will be until the situation has panned out.

Wolfgang Knorr, senior research scientist at Lund University in Sweden, and Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor at Australian National University, argued that things could get worse before experts understand the full extent of the climate crisis.

READ MORE: Antarctica: Bizarre 'creature' found 740m below ice

“In so doing, we must reassess how best science can contribute to climate policy in service of humanity.

“We must have the humility to accept how much we do not know – including at what point it is too late to prevent catastrophic tipping points and the consequent large-scale disruption.

“Only then can we free the political response from operating according to conservative assumptions and mid-range scenarios, and base it firmly on preventing a worst-case scenario.”

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