Climate change is rapidly altering our world in profound ways. Human activity has already increased the Earth’s temperature by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century, and as the planet continues to warm, the dangers intensify. Millions of people could be displaced, vital infrastructure could be destroyed, and violent conflicts could multiply. Climate change’s effects are far-reaching, varied, and touch virtually every aspect of life on earth. They range from heat waves and rising sea levels, to desertification and melting ice, and even to mass extinction.
The consequences of climate change are more complicated and connected than a simple list of weather events or ecological outcomes implies. For example, rising sea levels result in flooding, the destruction of infrastructure, and displacement, which can spur changes to the insurance industry and increase poverty, migration, and conflict.
Greenland exemplifies the complexity of this issue: it’s melting faster than ever before.
For thousands of years, sea level was more or less stable. But since the end of the 19th century, sea level has risen about 8 inches, and it’s getting faster: seas have risen more than 2 inches in the past 20 years alone.
Why are seas rising? A major factor is glacier melt, and scientists are particularly concerned about Greenland’s melting. Greenland is an ice sheet, or large area of land covered in glacial ice. It’s one of only two in the world (the other is Antarctica).