In 2015, an iceberg connected to the West Antarctic Ice Shelf broke. A 2016 study by the American Geophysical Union finds that the break was caused by a rift at the base of the shelf. The evidence implies that the fracture originated from the inside out—a new type of melting discovered in Arctic ice. The study’s lead author, Ian Howat, declares that the glacier’s internal behavior indicates that the ice sheet continues to melt: “It’s no longer a question of whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt—it’s a question of when.”
Arctic ice loss, caused by climate change, has dire consequences. For one, it amplifies the absorption of solar heat, as ice sheets that deflect 85% of sunlight turn into water that merely deflects 7% of sunlight. The surplus heat absorbed by our planet warms the oceans and later is discharged back into the atmosphere, increasing atmospheric temperatures. Scientists predict that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could break down in the next hundred years, raising sea levels by nearly ten feet. This would cause many problems; chief among them is coastline flooding, which is detrimental for species that rely on these terrains. Sea turtles, for example, would suffer as their nesting and feeding habitats would be inundated and destroyed, reducing their chances for survival.
As tragic as this may sound, some individuals are aware—even numb—to these types of findings. A Times article, for instance, foresees an increase in tourism in places such as Greenland and Canada. It also highlights a decrease in commercial shipping times in Arctic waters. These companies are not necessarily evil; they are operating like all businesses, on what yields the most profit, not what is best for the planet long term.
We have reached a point where the predicted problems caused by global warming demand that we prioritize long-term needs of our planet over profit margins. This shift in focus benefits all, including the businesses that turn a blind eye to environmental decline. After all, the consequences of global warming trump the cost of preventing it.