Climate emergency: Melting Greenland ice sheet signals that the worse is yet to come

Climate emergency: Melting Greenland ice sheet signals that the worse is yet to come

Hong Kong could be facing floods and rising summer temperatures as city won’t be spared from the consequences of global warming.


Scientist have found that the Earth's second-largest ice sheet in Greenland is losing ice at a faster pace.
Photo: Shutterstock

It was a long, beautiful Easter holiday. While you were lying on your sofa, sipping an iced coffee, did you notice the world outside your air-conditioned room?

Scientists have found that Greenland – the Earth’s second-largest ice sheet – is losing ice at a faster pace than ever before. Greenland’s glaciers dumped about 286 billion tonnes of ice into the ocean between 2010 and 2018. Compare that to the 51 billion tonnes of ice between 1980 to 1990.

As a result, the world’s sea levels are rising. Since 1972, sea levels have risen nearly 14 millimetres, mostly caused by Greenland. Half of it has happened in the past eight years, researchers say.

In addition, the Arctic ice cap is shrinking and a gigantic ice sheet looks set to break off from Antarctica at any time. These are all signs that indicate global warming is a fact of life.

Why do we need to care about it here in Hong Kong? We face fewer natural hazards compared to other regions, but global warming still affects us.

The rising sea levels means there’s a higher chance that low-lying areas in Hong Kong will be flooded.

Students marched in May for climate action in Hong Kong.
Photo: Joanne Ma/SCMP

Hongkongers suffer especially during typhoons. Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which swept across Hong Kong last year, was most made worse by global warming. It was the most intense storm in Hong Kong’s history. It uprooted some 1,500 trees, and left hundreds of windows smashed all over the city, while causing damage worth billions of dollars.

Typhoons get their energy from warmer sea surface temperatures. The warmer the sea, the more powerful and deadly a storm.

Also, global warming has led to a gradual rise in the number of hot summer nights in Hong Kong. On these nights, temperatures exceed 28 degrees Celsius. On very hot days, daytime temperatures soar past 33 degrees.

Hotter days and nights mean people will use more air-conditioning, resulting in worsening air pollution.

Global warming is also affecting Hong Kong’s marine creatures. They are moving from their usual habitats, which is causing serious problems for Hong Kong’s fishermen.

Since the early 20th century, people have been warned about the consequences of global warming.

Nearly 100 years later, the icebergs in Greenland and Arctic regions are visibly sinking into the warm ocean, while the threat of climate change rises ever more.

This is only the tip of the climate iceberg. Do we wait until all the icebergs have completely melted to take action?

Edited by M J Premaratne

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This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Climate change: worse is still to come


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