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For sustainable society


Greenland’s ice sheet melting at an alarming rate

Ice sheet melts at record rates

Greenland is located to the northeast of Canada, with temperatures rarely exceeding 10 degrees Celsius even in warm weather. Average winter temperatures range from minus 10 to minus 20 degrees Celsius. A recent report stated that the Greenland ice sheet is melting at a record rate. Warm air caused by heat waves in Europe reached Greenland between July 29 and 30, setting a record high of 24 degrees Celsius.
According to NASA, over 12 billion tons of water flowed from the ice sheet into the sea on August 1 alone, melting about 90% of the ice sheet surface between July 30 and August 3. During this period, an estimated 55 billion tons of ice flowed out, approximately 40 billion tons more than the previous average over the same time period.
 The ice sheet covers about 80% of Greenland and can be as thick as 2-3 km in some places. In recent years, 1000 tons of ice have melted from the ice sheet, with the sea level rising by about 1 millimeter every year. Scholars say that the ice sheet is in an “already sentenced to death” situation, which could eventually leave Greenland without an ice sheet. In addition, people in many areas known to be particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise—such as Bangladesh, Florida, and eastern England—may lose their homes.  Moreover, the problem is not only the speed at which the ice melts but also the ice’s dirt. A BBC reporter expressed that “When I walk [on the ice], I feel like I arrived on the moon.” In the past, air pollution was thought to be the cause of ice pollution, but recent research has shown that small algae thrive in melting ice. Algae make ice less reflective and therefore more prone to absorbing sunlight, accelerating the melting rate. This abnormal growth is also caused by the rise in temperature.

Preserving the ice sheet for the future

To preserve the critical Greenland ice sheet, further reductions in CO2 emissions—as outlined in the 2015 Paris Framework Convention on Climate Change—could help curb the fast melting rate.
Various people have started taking action to protect the ice sheet. Young Greenland climate activists and local students have started to communicate about the ice sheet’s situation with the world, including going on an “environmental strike.” Although still at the research stage, attempts are being made to absorb some of the CO2 emitted by aircrafts. In addition, 6000 Siberian larch seedlings, known to grow well in this climate, were planted near Narcissus Ark Airport, close to a glacier in southern Greenland.
All of this said, there is not much time left to protect the ice sheet. Experts say that the current melting rate could lead to a rise of over 1 meter in Greenland alone by 2100.