In Brief
  • We've all heard the dire prognostications about climate change, should we fail to heed the multiplying warnings of scientists. But what would such a future really look like?
  • ASAPScience, along with Bill Nye, has put together a sobering little video to show us what would happen if all the Earth's ice melted.

Chasing Ice

In 2012, nature photographer James Balog and his camera crew traveled to over 24 glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, Alaska, Canada, Austria, and the Rocky Mountains as part of the Extreme Ice Survey. Their mission was to capture time-lapse videos of the melting glaciers due to human-induced climate change. They returned and compiled their findings into a documentary called Chasing Ice.

The film was awarded the 2014 News and Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Nature Programming, but the images left many in shock. Glacial ice is quickly melting right under our noses, causing an array of environmental and economic consequences. Ice is disappearing at an alarming rate, so what would happen if all of it melted?

Well, it wouldn’t look pretty. Youtube channel ASAPScience, along with Bill Nye (the erstwhile “Science Guy”), created a video to pinpoint what would likely occur were this catastrophe to befall us. You can check it out below:

Waterworld

So let’s look at the consequences a little further. Sea ice will be the first to melt. Since it has a high albedo, it’s pretty good at reflecting the Sun’s heat. When it melts, there is not much left to reflect solar radiation, and the oceans begin to retain heat. When the melting ice mixes with the warm seawater, it turns the seawater a little more fresh. With lower levels of salinity, it could disrupt ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream. The currents influence weather patterns and with abnormal current activity, entire continents such as Europe would face massive crop shortages.

Some of the more familiar consequences are habitat destruction and sea levels rise. Scientists have reported a global sea level rise of 8 inches (20 cm) since people began tracking these changes in 1880. The National Climate Assessment report mentions that levels are projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. Since nearly 5 million people in the U.S. live within four feet of the local high-tide level, rising sea levels would compound extreme weather events that could completely inundate these areas.

Kevin Reynolds’ post-apocalyptic Waterworld might not seem like much to laugh at in the next few decades if we keep perpetuating climate change. Either we grow gills, smoke lots of cigarettes and row around on the Exxon Valdez, or find ways to reverse the damage we’ve been causing for many years now.