Greenland’s Looming Crisis

By: Yosef Scher  |  August 25, 2021

By Yosef Scher

Greenland, the largest island in the world, is melting at an alarming rate. Although this is not a recent discovery, the increased rate of melting ice concerns the scientific community. According to Denmark, the country that owns Greenland, on July 28th, scientists measured “enough meltwater to drown the entire US state of Florida in two inches, or 5cm, of water.” Such a substantial loss of water in such a short period of time has severe implications for our planet. 

The most obvious problem caused by this massive ice melting event is the crisis that will occur to Greenland’s population within the next couple of decades. Even though Greenland is the largest island in the world, it has one of the smallest populations. Since Greenland is 80% covered in snow, the only places where people are comfortably able to live are in coastal cities. As the rate of ice melting increases, these coastal cities are put at risk for numerous things, including increased risks of flooding due to glacier runoff and increased risks of mental illness as their country shrinks.

Although the tragedies for Greenland’s population will only escalate because of climate change, the potential problems resulting from Greenland’s ice melting will negatively affect our sea levels. Greenland has “656,000 square miles of ice [that] play a pivotal role in protecting much of the world’s freshwater ice supply.” As temperatures continue to rise, more ice disappears. This direct correlation assures that sea levels will continue to rise as more ice turns to water. According to data from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the rate of change of sea level rising is 3.3 millimeters per year. Additionally, in 2021, scientists at this facility believe that sea levels are close to 100 millimeters higher than what they were in 1993. A significant contributor to rising sea levels is ice melting in Greenland. Michon Scott, a prolific writer and member of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, found that “Greenland[‘s] ice loss in 2019 was enough to raise global ocean level by 0.06 inches (1.5 millimeters).” This number has only grown since and will continue to do so in the following decades to come. 

Nature and society will experience the adverse consequences of rising sea levels. According to Oliver Milman, an environment reporter for The Guardian, the “rate of ice loss, which is accelerating as temperatures continue to increase, is changing ocean currents, altering marine ecosystems and posing a direct threat to the world’s low-lying coastal cities, which risk being inundated by flooding.” By individually analyzing these outcomes, a person can better understand just how serious of an issue this is. If ocean currents are altered, then dramatic weather pattern changes will follow. As marine ecosystems begin to shift around, many of the food chains worldwide will break down, leading to a possible food crisis. Finally, as coastal cities begin to flood, more people will have to move inland. This can lead to overcrowding, which has several detrimental effects in itself.  

Considering that some scientists predict Greenland’s total demise in roughly 600 years, which would cause sea levels to rise to more than 20 feet, we need to figure out a way to fix the climate change problem before it is too late. 

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