In 1978, John Mercer at Ohio State University warned that rapid release of greenhouse gases posed the threat of disaster. He was right.
A group of scientists reported today that it’s too late to stop the collapse of the ice sheet in West Antarctica, the New York Times reports.
The finding means that a four-foot rise in global sea level is now inevitable, although it may take a century, the groups says, but after that it will speed up sharply. Business Insider reports it may take 200 years before the last of the ice is gone.
The scientists noted that the problem isn’t the temperature of the air, which is how many people view climate change and a warming planet, it’s the temperature of the water.
There is still dispute about whether it’s a man-made problem — it could be the ozone hole over Antarctica, they said. But at this point, it’s beside the fact. It can’t be stopped. If the entire ice sheet of Antarctica melts, seas will rise 11 feet.
We thought the system “was stabilized for a few thousand years,” Ian Joughin, a scientist who studies the physics of glaciers at the University of Washington, Seattle, and who is the lead author of the study, published in the journal Science, National Geographic reported.
What would a two-foot rise in oceans do? According to Business Insider, most of Florida south of Miami, about 5 million people, could be uninhabitable.
Related: The 'Unstable' West Antarctic Ice Sheet: A Primer (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory).