Climate change has reached a new “tipping point”, according to two studies released this week. Glaciers at the edge of the West Antarctica ice sheet are melting fast.
This has been one of the main contributors to the small rise in sea levels that has happened so far. More importantly, it weakens the ice sheet by bringing warmer water right underneath it.
The new studies suggest this will cause the whole ice sheet to collapse—and sea levels to rise by more than four metres.That’s enough to submerge large parts of Humberside, the Thames estuary, East Anglia and the south coast.
Parts of north western Europe, Bangladesh, the Nile Delta, Florida and sections of China could all be flooded, potentially creating many millions of refugees.
The process of melting is now probably irreversible.
It will not happen immediately, though. It could take less than 200 years, or more than 500, depending on whether serious steps are taken to address global warming.
A society built on inequality turns weather events into human disasters. It will take a real fight to provide safety and shelter for those affected.
But more urgent still is the fight to stop our rulers making the problem worse.
In the House of Lords and the right wing media, the concern isn’t how to stop global warming but how to speed up fracking and pump out more greenhouse emissions.