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Sudden ice loss in Antarctica affecting Earth’s gravitational field

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

In a recent research, a team of scientists have published that Antarctica is experiencing a sudden increase in ice loss which is causing small changes in the gravitational field of the Earth. Since 2009, multiple glaciers along a vast coastal expanse have disappeared in the ocean.

“To date, the glaciers added roughly 300 cubic km of water to the ocean. That’s the equivalent of the volume of nearly 350,000 Empire State buildings combined,” a lead study author Bert Wouters at the University of Bristol said.

“The fact that so many glaciers in such a large region suddenly started to lose ice came as a surprise to us. It shows a very fast response of the ice sheet: in just a few years the dynamic regime completely shifted”, added Bert.

The changes were detected by the CryoSat-2 satellite, operated by the European Space Agency.

The ice loss in the region is so large that it is causing small changes in the gravity field of the Earth. Such a change can be detected by another satellite mission, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

In the last two decades, the ice shelves in the region have lost almost one-fifth of their thickness, thereby reducing the resisting force on the glaciers.

“To pinpoint the cause of the changes, more data need to be collected. A detailed knowledge of the geometry of the local ice shelves, the ocean floor topography, ice sheet thickness and glacier flow speeds are crucial to tell how much longer the thinning will continue,” Wouters concluded.

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Use Every Resources To Help in Climate Change: Scientists

Individuals and civic groups have a big role to play in pushing governments to tackle climate threats.

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Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation's top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

Last-ditch efforts to hold climate change to the most ambitious target set by governments will likely require using every available technique rather than picking and choosing the most attractive ones, climate scientists said on Monday.

Dramatically reducing the use of coal, planting huge swaths of land with carbon-absorbing forest or powering most transport with electricity are no longer sufficient to bring about the swift transition needed, they said, with warming expected to pass the 1.5 degree Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) mark in as little as 12 years.

“We can make choices about how much of each option to choose, but the idea you can leave anything out is impossible,” said Jim Skea, who jointly led a major scientific report analyzing the feasibility of holding global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, the most ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, requested by governments, was issued ahead of a U.N. conference in December in Poland that will consider how to increase country ambitions to cut emissions and manage climate risks better.

Current government commitments to curb climate change under the Paris pact, even if fully met, would still leave the world on track for about 3 degrees of warming, scientists said.

Climate change
Waves from Hurricane Florence pound the Bogue Inlet Pier in Emerald Isle, N.C. VOA

To have a chance of meeting the 1.5 degrees goal, climate-changing emissions would have to plunge 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, the report said.

As that would be an “unprecedented” rate of decline, it is more likely the world will overshoot the target, then try to return to it by sucking carbon from the air, scientists said.

Such “carbon removal” might happen by developing better technology to take out carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – now an extremely expensive process – or by planting many more forests that could be harvested and burned for energy, with emissions pumped into underground storage.

“We have not identified any pathways that get to 1.5 degrees Celsius without some kind of carbon dioxide removal,” Skea said.

But turning over much more land for energy production “could have implications for food security, ecosystems and biodiversity,” the British scientist warned, as competition for land grows.

Climate change
Traffic moves as smoke emits from the chimney of a factory on the outskirts of Gauhati, India. VOA

All on board

Swiftly reducing emissions – even with carbon removal – will also require unprecedented levels of international cooperation, a particular challenge as some national governments, like that in the United States, look increasingly inward.

Making the needed emissions changes “is within the scope of what humans can achieve”, said Hans-Otto Portner, a German climate scientist and IPCC report co-chair.

But success “depends on political leadership,” he added.

Henri Waisman, a senior researcher at Paris-based think tank IDDRI and one of 91 report authors, said the report’s aim was to set out the types of transformation required as clearly as possible to inform discussions at U.N. climate talks and beyond.

Delaying action on climate change “is something that is explicitly contradicted in the report,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Climate change
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If governments fail to ramp up their ambition to reduce heat-trapping emissions over the next two years, they will have consciously abandoned the 1.5 degree goal, he added.

Action in cities – which consume more than two-thirds of energy globally and account for about three-quarters of carbon emissions – are pivotal to meeting the target, said report author William Solecki, a professor at Hunter College-City University of New York.

That’s particularly true because most population growth in coming years “is going to be in urban areas – a lot of it particularly in small and medium-sized cities … in the global south,” he said.

Those cities will need more support to develop cleanly, prevent disasters and adapt to climate shifts, he added.

Climate change
The connection between Antarctic Volcanic Eruptions and abrupt Climate Change. Pixabay

The scientists said the report was intended to guide more than just governments, however, and that action by everyone – including individuals and businesses – would be required to hold the line on climate change.

“There’s a lot we can do individually or within our communities,” said Debora Ley, a report author who works on adaptation and renewable energy in Latin America.

Also Read: UN IPCC Will Meet To Consider On A Global Warming Impact Report

Personal changes might include everything from eating less meat to using energy-efficient appliances and reducing air travel, said Patricia Pinho, a Brazilian climate scientist and report author.

Individuals and civic groups have a big role to play in pushing governments to tackle climate threats, and are stepping up pressure as recognition of the danger grows, she said.

“We have to live our lives in a way that makes a difference. “Our life on this planet, our kids are at risk,” she said. (VOA)