Since August 2016, the sea ice in Antarctica has been decreasing, reaching historic lows this year. This is a cause for concern because what many countries referred to as ‘development’ has essentially turned into uncontrolled urbanization, aiming to accommodate the urban areas for those who migrated there from the industrial era onwards.
However, the infrastructure built during this urbanization boom is no longer sufficient, as the global population has increased significantly. This leads to further exploitation of natural resources. Meanwhile, not only have we failed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (a fundamental condition for human survival on Earth), but fossil fuels remain the primary source of energy consumption worldwide.
All of these factors worsen the climate crisis. The phenomenon of global warming becomes more intense, resulting in extreme heatwaves. For instance, in the summer of 2024, it was the hottest on record, as scientists predicted based on the previous year’s record-breaking heat.
As we continue to warm, the sea ice, which has protected us from the heat of the ocean for millions of years, melts more, exacerbating the climate crisis and reducing our chances of survival on this planet.
How Sea Levels Rise: Since 2021, global organizations have been warning that as the planet warms, ice melts, and sea levels rise, coastal cities will gradually disappear underwater due to this process. This includes cities that experienced unchecked urban development, like Jakarta and Athens.
Greenland and Antarctica together hold about 75% of the world’s freshwater. If this water were to return to the ocean, sea levels would rise by 75 meters. Research from Ohio State University in 2020 revealed that just from the melting ice sheets in Greenland, 280 billion metric tons of melted ice flow into the oceans each year, contributing to sea level rise at a rate of 1 millimeter per year.
Additionally, what happens in Greenland affects ocean currents and can potentially disrupt them. By the end of the century, it was estimated that sea levels could rise by 91 centimeters, swallowing beaches and coastal properties.
The melting ice sheets are also prone to sudden and unpredictable breaks, causing rapid and unpredictable increases in sea levels, making prediction and preparation difficult.
Furthermore, changes in the salinity levels of the oceans can impact thermohaline circulation, potentially stopping ocean currents and drastically altering climates worldwide. In Europe, this could result in significantly colder temperatures for extended periods (such as ice ages), affecting all life forms and economies dependent on land use.
The marine ecosystem, which relies heavily on ocean currents, would also be threatened. These currents create the conditions necessary for their ecosystem (nutrients, temperature, salinity).
What We Lose from Melting Sea Ice: It’s important to note the distinction between land-based ice and sea ice. Land-based ice, like ice sheets and glaciers, contributes significantly to sea level rise when it melts. Sea ice, which forms from the freezing of seawater, doesn’t directly raise sea levels when it melts, but it has crucial ecological and climatic functions.
Sea ice reflects sunlight, helping to regulate the Earth’s temperature. When it melts, it exposes the darker ocean water, which absorbs more heat and accelerates warming. Sea ice also provides habitat for various species, including polar bears, seals, and penguins, and its melting affects their survival.
In summary, the continued melting of land-based ice and sea ice contributes to rising sea levels, disrupts ecosystems, and exacerbates the climate crisis, with far-reaching consequences for the planet and its inhabitants.