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Published: Thursday, 5/15/2014


The great melt

Working independently, two teams of climate scientists have concluded that the West Antarctica ice sheet is in unstoppable retreat. Because of the mega-melt, sea levels could rise precipitously in the next century and threaten many of the world’s most populated coastal cities.

The U.S. cities of New York, Boston, New Orleans, and Miami are particularly vulnerable, if the scientists are correct. They agree that the rise in the sea level will be relatively slow for the rest of this century, but that the rate will accelerate in the next century and could result in sea levels rising by 10 or more feet.

The scientists say global warming caused by human activity that releases greenhouse gases is one of several factors behind the melting, yet climate change deniers are heaping the same derision on these findings as they did on last week’s National Climate Assessment. What will it take to get their attention?

The West Antarctica glaciers have retreated enough to trigger instability in neighboring ice sheets. A scientific team has documented the accelerating retreat of six glaciers draining into the Amundsen Sea. That melt alone is expected to raise sea levels by four feet.

Although the ice sheet predates modern humans, children born today will be around to see its demise. Maybe the children of today’s climate skeptics will be believers.

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