New research carried out by scientists at Harvard University has concluded that we have significantly underestimated the rise in sea levels caused by the melting ice sheets in the Antarctic. In the aftermath of the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, scientists estimate that this rise in sea levels could be 30% greater than originally predicted.
The difference between previous calculations and those of the Harvard researchers is that the Harvard researchers took into consideration “how the water-expulsion mechanism affected sea-level change when (they investigated) the low viscosity, or the easy-flowing material of the Earth’s mantle”. This has led one of the senior authors to conclude that: “Every published projection of sea-level rise due to melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that has been based on climate modelling, whether the projection extends to the end of this century or longer into the future, is going to have to be revised upward because of their work. Every single one.”
Why do we need to worry?
WWF estimates that if we don’t do anything about the melting of the polar ice caps, the Arctic could be ice-free by as early as 2040, and this will have profound implications for life on Earth:
- Weather extremes - Without the ice to reflect heat back into space and balance global temperatures, there will be more intense heatwaves, as well as bitter winters. There is the additional problem that large amounts of methane are stored in permafrost - when that frost melts, the methane is released into the atmosphere, speeding up global warming and climate change. We are already experiencing unusual weather patterns in the UK - for example, in March 2021 the Met Office recorded temperatures in the mid-20s that were followed by unseasonably cold weather and snow in April.
- Loss of land - The rise in sea levels will inevitably lead to coastal areas being flooded, displacing hundreds of thousands of people around the UK, as well as resulting in the loss of agricultural land, hospitals, roads and railways, and land and vital infrastructure located in coastal areas such as hospitals, roads, railways and industrial premises including nuclear power stations.
- Loss of habitat - Animals that depend on cold climates for survival are losing their habitat, for example, Arctic animals such as polar bears, Pacific walruses, Arctic foxes, narwhals, and beluga whales, all of which are endangered.
- The days could get longer - According to NASA, if the water from the ice caps melts into the oceans, the resulting movement of mass will upset the equilibrium of the Earth’s rotation with the potential of slowing it down and making each day longer. However, this difference will only be two milliseconds, which would probably be the least of our worries in the wake of such profound climate change.
The situation can be reversed
It isn’t too late to avoid or limit the effects of climate change. NASA’s climate change experts have recommended a two-tier approach to the problem, combining the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, and finding ways of living with the changes that have already been created.
In the meantime, there are a number of things we can all do at an individual and organisational level to help the environment. As the UK’s leading independent business water supplier, we take our responsibilities seriously and are keen to encourage all our customers to save water wherever possible:
- At Castle Water, we give free practical advice to help our customers use less water to become more sustainable and reduce costs on their water bills. Our Water Efficiency Guide is packed with easy tips to help businesses save water and money. The less water your business uses, the more you’re helping the environment - with the added bonus that you’ll also be saving money.
- We encourage all our customers to monitor their water usage by submitting regular meter readings. If you know how much water your business normally uses, you’ll be able to monitor water efficiency measures and identify possible leaks. What’s more, for every meter reading our customers submit that is used to calculate their bill, we donate £1 to Save the Children’s Emergency Fund.
- We support environmental campaigns like Unblocktober and Plastic Free July that encourages people and businesses to stop flushing items that can block drains and reduce the amount of plastic pollution they produce.
- Our continued commitment to tackling climate change has seen the recent installation of three electric vehicle charging points in the employee car park. We are also carbon balancing our printing operations, and are set to balance more than 18,000kg of carbon emissions in 2021.
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