The Greenland Ice Sheet

Photo by Hannes Grobe, AWI

This is the village of Ittoqqortoormiit in Greenland, photo by Hannes Grobe. Not much growing going on. No wonder the people paint their houses colorfully. Things would be pretty bleak otherwise.

Greenland is the largest island in the world, located in the North Atlantic.

Greenland B

It is mostly covered by an ice sheet, which melts back in the summers and is replenished in the winters.

Greenland A

If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, the sea level around the world would rise by 23 feet. Hundreds of coastal cities around the world would be abandoned. The rice-growing river deltas of Asia would be under water. Here in the U.S., most of Florida would be gone, Manhattan would be largely under water, and many of our great cities like Boston, Washington, Houston, Seattle, San Diego, Los Angeles,  San Francisco and Honolulu would be severely affected. I cannot imagine that civilization as we know it would be able to continue.

I think it’s safe to say that if we cannot mobilize and motivate ourselves to save the Greenland ice sheet we probably cannot save our civilization.

The U.S. climate change obfuscation movement still argues that it’s not humans that are changing the climate. It’s nature all by itself, and therefore we can just go on burning fossil fuels without worry.

According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers based on U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, U.S. coal mining was responsible for 154,000 direct jobs and over 400,000 indirect jobs in 2008.

Interestingly, the same people in the U.S. Congress arguing that global warming is a hoax are also the ones that call it immoral that we leave debt to our descendants.

What is more immoral?

  • Not to curb coal burning and jeopardize some of the 550,000 jobs dependent on coal?
  • Directly cause the annihilation of all major U.S. coastal cities, displacing over 100 million people all within the current century?

I am sure it is hard to transition from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy economy. It too will create jobs, it’s not like the jobs go away, they are being moved around.

But it is harder to relocate 100 million people when our cities are flooded.

The only counter-argument the deniers have is that it’s not humans that are causing the warming, it’s nature alone. We just have to deal with the results.

Is it worth the bet?

I agree that it is immoral to leave impossible levels of debt to future generations.

I think that it is more immoral to trash the global ecosystem so far that sea levels rise by dozens of feet, if it indeed is avoidable.

I do not think it is immoral to transition jobs from fossil fuel burning to renewable energies, even if it comes with a short-term cost. It is an investment in our children’s future.

I agree we cannot do this alone. We need China, Russia, India, Brazil and Indonesia to go along with it. Note that I didn’t include Europe on that list. It seems there are very few deniers left in Europe. Somehow they “got it” already.

Maybe it’s because they’re all socialists, though.

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