The polar ice caps are melting: causes, consequences, and solutions.
Global Warming can have many different effects on the planet, but the one I will be focusing on is the melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers. Now, glacier melt is nothing new, as it has been happening periodically as we go in and out of ice ages every 100,000 years. However, currently, many glaciers and polar ice caps are melting way faster than they should naturally be, which could result in glacier collapse, this normally takes over thousands of years to happen, but now it has been accelerated so that it may occur in mere decades, and the main reason for this is human activity.
It is said that human nature will destroy nature and humans.
There are two main formations of ice on this planet, glaciers, and ice sheets. Glaciers are large, freshwater ice masses that are formed on land or in mountains from falling snow that eventually becomes so heavy that they are compacted into ice. They can range in size from the length of a football field to a few 100 miles (160km) long. Ice sheets, also known as continental glaciers, are masses of ice that cover more than 19,000 square miles (50,000 square km). They are known as the largest ice formations in the world and there are currently only two on this planet that cover Greenland, and Antarctica.
These ice formations are important as they are covered in white snow and ice which can reflect heat and solar radiation back into space, balancing out other parts of the world that absorb a lot of heat. Thus, the Arctic and Antarctic are called the "Planet's Refrigerators". They are also major stores of fresh water which act as a primary water source for many rural mountain villages.
Due to the rise in the Earth's average temperature, the ice and snow in these glacial regions are melting, revealing more of the Earth's darker surfaces that absorb rather than reflect heat. This coupled with the fact that the main polar regions (the Arctic and Antarctic) as well as any areas with permafrost (refers to permanently frozen layers of the Earth's surface bound tightly by ice and has remained frozen for 2 or more years) are also large stores of methane. This means that the melting of these ice formations will only contribute more to Global warming, increasing the Earth's temperature, melting more ice, and releasing more methane, continuing the vicious cycle.
The melting ice can also affect the weather, since as mentioned previously, the Earth will struggle to reflect heat, meaning heatwaves will become more common and intense. We could also experience more extreme winters because the polar jet stream (a high-pressure wind that circles the Arctic region) could be destabilised by the warmer air temperature, making it dip South, and bring a frigid, cold to areas that shouldn't normally experience such low temperatures. Leading to extreme weather conditions, like drought and severe storms which can severely damage farmland and pose a big threat towards the global food system (may lead to food shortages). The warmer air can also affect the ocean, heating it, which could change when and where fish spawn posing problems for fisheries.
Another consequence is that sea levels will rise gradually, putting many coastal cities/areas at risk of flooding. Places like Bangkok in Thailand and Amsterdam in the Netherlands are the most at risk and have already experienced major floods in the past. So, as sea levels continue to rise, these cities must either spend large amounts of money towards improved flood defences and disaster recovery bills or accept the fact that in the future these areas will be entirely submerged underwater and move elsewhere.
Now that I have explained to you the main consequences, I will now enlighten you to possible solutions researchers have thought of to slow down this problem as the world attempts to fix the main cause by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the latest Climate Change summit, COP26.
One solution is to build underwater walls/mounds using gravel and sand on the ocean floor, either underneath or around the glaciers base, to act as a physical support and stop it from collapsing as well as to protect it against the warmer waters. According to scientist's computer simulations, the most efficient way to do this is by building a tall, miles-long wall that acts as a constant barrier across the glacier's underwater length. However, this simulation has also concluded that such a strategy is currently beyond any current engineer's capabilities and the cost of such a project would be extremely expensive.
Another solution would be to class the waters around the Antarctic as a marine protected area (MPA), to help protect the region against over-fishing (plus the CO2 emissions from the fishing vessels) and tourism (includes the CO2 emissions from the ships carrying the tourists). However, this decision has been blocked by both China and Russia over concerns on how this might negatively affect fisheries.
The last solution, as proposed by the Indonesian architect, Rajak Kotahatuhaha, would consist of collecting water from melted icebergs, desalinating it (a reverse osmosis process to divide freshwater from saltwater) and then refreeze it to create large hexagonal artificial icebergs, which thanks to their shape, could then combine into a large frozen mass and eventually refreeze the Arctic.
So, now that I have given you all the information I could find on this important issue, I hope that you all do your part in combating climate change and support the efforts of the many researchers who are actively fighting for a better future for us all.