As the world around us changes, society adapts, but how can a population that’s already struggling survive in a transforming environment?
In Greenland, glaciers are melting at an alarming pace. So much so that the rapid change threatens the climate of the entire world. As an example, increasing temperatures have contributed to ozone pollution, causing 40% of the United States population to contract lung disease according to the American Lung Association.
With the polar ice caps melting at record speeds, everyone needs to understand how climate change affects the world now – and in the future.
Hints of What’s to Come
In Greenland, during one of the hottest days of summer 2019 in August, the townspeople of Kulusk were startled by what sounded like a massive explosion. It was the sound of a chunk of ice the size of a soccer field breaking away from a glacier over 5 miles away.
On that day, Greenland lost 12.5 billion tons of ice. This event was the most substantial one-day loss recorded in history as well as a startling and tangible reminder of climate change.
NASA scientists established the Oceans Melting Greenland program in Kulusuk earlier that year after record-breaking heat waves hit Europe and the United States. The heat wave triggered massive melting of the Greenland ice sheet.
There’s enough ice in the Greenland ice sheet to raise the global sea level by 25 feet. According to researchers, if a billion tons of ice melts in Greenland, sea levels in the United States, Australia, Europe and Southeast Asia will rise drastically.
What’s Happening Now?
Researchers have already recorded the first instance of the loss of an entire Icelandic ice glacier. In 2014, scientists memorialized the event with a monument inscribed “A letter to the future.”
Okjökull is the first significant body of ice to lose its glacial status. Over the next 200 years, researchers expect the same fate awaits all of the world’s glaciers.
Rising and falling sea levels are normal. However, researchers express that it’s never happened this fast. If glaciers continue to melt at this rapid pace, it will create several global environmental threats.
For instance, continued glacial melting could displace a fifth of the world’s population by the year 2100. International law doesn’t protect the people most threatened by this potential outcome. Resultantly, there is no guarantee that they will receive asylum.
If the damage to Iceland’s glaciers continues unchecked, regions around the world may face natural disasters such as contaminated drinking water and even complete submersion.
Clear and Present Danger
Over 3,000 miles away from Nordic Iceland, researchers believe that climate change is the cause of the mass death of Alaskan salmon. In July 2019, they recorded a large number of premature salmon deaths.
Researchers link the deaths to unprecedented heat waves that occurred in Alaska. Within the Koyonuk River alone – a tributary of the Yukon River – researchers recorded 850 dead salmon along a 200-mile span. After surviving for years and migrating 700 miles upriver, scientists believe that the salmon died from heat stress.
For the salmon, the heat is not only stressful – it’s lethal. The researchers say 20 years of research shows that climate change is warming salmon spawning grounds.
Scientists explain that the climate change connection is speculative. It’s difficult, expressed researchers, to definitively determine the cause of death of the salmon long after the fact. However, it’s the most likely explanation.
What Does Climate Change Mean for the Homeless?
The homeless are already an at-risk population. This group is displaced and often migratory.
In the United States, more than half a million people are homeless at any given time. Due to the severity of the problem, public safety officials have developed guidelines for protecting the homeless population during natural disasters.
A more immediate and tangible issue regarding climate change, it’s increasing homelessness. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, natural disasters are the cause of the displacement of nearly 1% of the homeless population.
The displacements, unfortunately, highlight the destructive power of climate change. Still, environmental watchdogs lament that these are only the early stages of the societal impact of climate change.
There are things that citizens can do to advocate for the homeless and the environment. There are many organizations that concerned citizens can support.
However, people can also change their behavior to reduce the impact that their routines have on the environment. By reducing the impact that your lifestyle has on the planet, you can help to mitigate the devastating effects of climate change.
Kulusuk, Greenland – Wikimedia creative commons
Okjökull glacier commemorative plaque – Wikimedia creative commons
Koyukuk River in autumn – Wikimedia creative commons
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.