The Climanomics of Accelerated Antarctic Ice Melt

Posted on 1/22/19 3:32 PM

We've already begun to see the physical and economic impacts of the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet. A study published in Nature in June 2018 revealed that sea-level rise due to Antarctic ice melt has tripled over the last five years.

2019 brings further (and potentially more devastating) news of the extent and impact of Antarctic ice melt. According to a study published on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month, there has been a increase in yearly ice mass loss in the Antarctic between 1979 and 2017. The Antarctic is currently losing about 6 times as much annual ice mass as was lost in the early 1980's when, the study began. Overall, the study revealed a mass loss over the entirety of the four decades of the research project, with a "rapid increase over the last two decades."

Indeed, reports that "(t)he pace of melting rose dramatically over the four-decade period [of the study]. From 1979 to 2001, it was an average of 48 gigatons annually per decade. The rate jumped 280 percent to 134 gigatons for 2001 to 2017."

Further, the article states that "(g)laciologists from the University of California, Irvine, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Netherlands' Utrecht University ... found that the accelerated melting caused global sea levels to rise more than half an inch during that time."

The study's lead author, Eric Rignot is quoted as follows:

"That's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-meter sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries."

We've seen the impacts of the sea level increase over the past four decades, with increased coastal inundation particularly noticeable over the last two decades. And though it's difficult to imagine what multi-meter sea level rise might mean for humanity in the coming centuries, it is also imaginable that in the coming centuries, humans will find ways to adapt to these devastating losses. But what does the outlook in the mid-range look like? What does this accelerated ice loss mean for us now as we rapidly approach 2020? Given the pattern of accelerated Antarctic ice melt, what might the next two decades look like? And why should we begin anticipating the impacts of this ice melt on the the market now?

In this video, The Climate Service's CEO, James McMahon takes a brief look at the reports of accelerated Antarctic ice melt and translates it into Climanomics - the economics of climate change - and explains why it is critical that we begin anticipating the economic impacts of the next twenty years of sea level rise now. According to James, the risk is real, but not unmanageable. Just as ice melt, sea level rise, and economic impact can be measured through extensive study, climate risk can also be measured, monitored, and ultimately -- managed. The ability to measure, monitor, and manage climate risk (our mission here at TCS) can help prevent the kinds of devastating physical and economic losses that are predicted over the next several decades.

We cannot prevent the ice caps from melting, but we can prevent a great deal of future loss - and create opportunities that advance people, profit and planet - if we take steps to attend to the risks that we know about now.

Do you know your climate risk?


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