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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Melting Antarctica Could Drown Coasts Much Sooner Than You Thought

Antarctica will suffer a major meltdown if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the present pace.

By David Biello | September 11, 2015

ANTARCTICA: The coldest continent, seen here from space in September 2005, could lose its icy cover if fossil fuel burning continues unabated. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

How Far Can Climate Change Go?

Seas could rise as fast as three centimeters a year if fossil fuel consumption continues at its present rate. Such increases would amount to ten times the current rise of roughly three millimeters annually. But Antarctica’s vast ice sheets may substantially melt and accelerate the rise of seawaters should the burning of fossil fuel continue unabated, according to new computer simulations of climate change’s future impact.

Scientists had previously thought that East Antarctica’s massive ice sheets were relatively safe, requiring thousands of years to pass beforewarming global temperatures would begin to melt them. But the new simulations, published in Science Advances on September 11, suggest Antarctica’s ice is much more vulnerable—and thus sea level rise could be a lot worse.

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