By Thomas Neuburger. Originally published at DownWithTyranny!
In a new book, The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, author Dahr Jamail writes about the coming world without any standing glacial ice anywhere on earth. He capsulizes his thoughts in this interview with Dharna Noor at the Real News Network:
DHARNA NOOR: These indicators of the climate crisis are often presented as just statistics— sometimes ones that have implications maybe for the ecosystems around ice melting, rarely ones that are wreaking havoc on all life on Earth. But in this book, in The End of Ice, you write, “The reporting in this book has turned out to be far more difficult to deal with than the years I spent reporting from war torn Iraq.” And later you even say that, “we’re setting ourselves up for our own extinction.”
Talk about the extent of the earth’s ice loss, and how seeing it up close impacted you, and what it means for life around the planet?
DAHR JAMAIL: … In four years’ time, [the Antarctic has] lost 34 times the amount of ice as was lost in the Antarctic over the same period. And so, what this essentially means is an area of sea ice in the Antarctic, larger than the size of Mexico, vanished in a four-year time frame. It went from a record high to a record low of sea ice extent. This is how fast things are happening in front of our eyes, coupled with the loss of terrestrial ice like in the Himalaya and in the lower 48 United States.
We have other reports show that we could have no ice whatsoever, no glacial ice whatsoever, in the lower 48 by the year 2100.
A life with no glacial ice anywhere in the continental U.S. is almost unimaginable. Extrapolating that thought throughout the globe is beyond what most people can even begin to picture.
Yet the consequences are easy to detail. Jamail continues:
DAHR JAMAIL: And so, if you think about the human impacts of this, right now as we speak, almost a quarter of a billion people around the world rely on glacial ice just for their drinking water alone. If we look at agricultural impacts, you mentioned the Himalaya, the loss of ice in the Himalaya, some studies showing we could see almost the entirety of glacial ice in the Himalaya gone by 2100.
Well, in the Hindu Kush region, that’s the source of seven major river systems in Asia. 1.5 billion people rely on that water for drinking and for agricultural purposes, so if all of that ice is gone by 2100, where do those 1.5 billion people go? Because you can’t live somewhere where there’s no water, and then what happens in those areas where they go?
So you start to think about the cascading effects, just the human impact. I’m not even talking about the ecological impact, which is equally devastating. But if you start looking at these cascading impacts, then you start to get an idea of really the severity of the crisis that we’re in.
The Hindu Kush is a mountain range and surrounding area that stretches from central Afghanistan into Pakistan and China. 1.5 billion people is 20% of earth’s population. This is not the most politically stable region of the world. A water-and-agriculture crisis involving 20% of earth’s population won’t be small — or fixable.
Now consider the same problem with global cascading effects — war, famine, disease and drought; sea level rise, ocean warming and acidification; arid farm land and ruined national economies; disruption of the food chain at both top and bottom.
The first permanent glaciers began to appear just 35 million years ago, a small fraction of a fossil record that extends back 240 million years, long before the dinosaurs, to the start of the Cambrian period. Humans have never lived in a world without ice.
Can we survive if, by our own action — or rather, the action of the pathological few to whom we’ve ceded control — the world returns to an ice-free state? Yes; perhaps.
But how many humans will an ice-free world support? Probably not seven and a half billion. Perhaps not a tenth of that number. Even a tenth of that tenth may be ten times too optimistic.