Residing on the outskirts of the Arctic Ocean, in close proximity to the North Pole, Greenland was named by a Norwegian Viking, Erik the Red, in 983 AD. Legend says that Erik the Red, a murderous exile from Iceland, hoped to attract settlers by enticing them with a name that implied lush vegetation and green hills.1 John N. Harris, M.A., author of “The Greenland Vikings,” explains that the temperature of Greenland in 900 AD was between 1-3 deg. C warmer than what it is today, so it may have had some vegetation, but it always contained ice.2 The change of Greenland’s warmer climate to what we know today was in direct correlation to the Little Ice Age, occurring from 1450-1750 AD.3 Global cooling affected trading routes between the island and Scandinavia, which were heavily relied upon by the Greenlanders.4 Today scientists concerned with the global affects that will occur as the ice melts are monitoring the island of Greenland to estimate the equivalent of damage and location of destruction that will follow.
One of the largest islands, Greenland helps regulate Earth’s global weather patterns, by reflecting light from the sun, and controlling the oceans temperature.5 Photos from space and images from Earth have proven the ice is melting at exceedingly fast rates, and could prove to have devastating effects on coastlines around the planet. Regardless if one believes Global Warming is caused naturally or man-made, it is becoming extremely important to understand what will happen in as little as the next ten years.
Greenland houses about 8% of the Earth’s fresh water.6 It is important to understand how much water is in question to comprehend the impact. The amount of ice on the island is measured about 1,520,000 kilometers2 (375 million acres of ice). If one were to gather and pile all the ice on top of itself, then it would reach about 64.5 kilometers high (40 miles). The volume of water (as ice) on Greenland is about 2,600,640 kilometers3 (687 million gallons of water). If all of the ice melted off the surface of Greenland, then Earth’s oceans will have gained 2.5 billion tons of fresh water. To reiterate, this means that 5 trillion pounds of water will be displaced into the sea. Scientists have projected that our oceans would rise by 20 feet if all the ice on Greenland melted.7
The increase of water to our planets oceans will affect coastlines and destroy land currently inhabited by people. In America a 3-foot change in our ocean would produce disastrous flooding that, usually occur every couple centuries, to happen regularly. Coastal cities and towns will become increasingly unsafe or completely uninhabitable.8 NASA Chief Scientist, Waleed Abdaltai, says that if the ocean were to rise one meter (3 feet) the damages would cost at least a trillion dollars in expense, and directly affect over a hundred-million people.9 Scientists warn that nobody should be surprised if a three-foot rise in sea level happens within the next 20 years.10
The melting of ice does not just upset the rise in sea level, but also interrupts the oceans circulation by the displacement of fresh water into a salty sea. The salinity change “could depress the Gulf Stream and alter North Atlantic circulation patterns that control weather in Europe.” This would inevitably change the globes weather patterns and significantly increase the Earth’s overall temperatures.11 The expected amount of change produced will instigate a chain reaction unimaginable by scientists.
These numbers are still up for debate, statisticians are unsure if it’s an overestimate or underestimate.12 People are still arguing who is to blame, and America, one of the most culturally influential countries of our age, has shut down NASA satellites crucial to monitoring the ice movements.13 The debate of whether or not Global Warming is natural or man-made is superfluous. It is more important to understand the implications of what the melting ice means for the global weather shift, changing coastlines, and what we are going to do for the hundreds of millions of people who will be displaced within the next twenty years.
It is known that the Earth will still exist and evolve, even if man-kind is wiped clean. The question is not “if we can destroy the planet”, but will we be able to survive if we do not compromise our resource consumption.