KING GEORGE ISLAND, Antarctica (AP) — On the cusp of the COP28 climate talks, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited Antarctica on Thursday, after previously saying the world must slash carbon emissions to prevent this delicate environment from melting.
Warming air and ocean temperatures are causing Antarctic ice to melt. The frozen continent plays a significant role in regulating Earth’s climate because it reflects sunlight away and drives major ocean currents.
For years, scientists and environmentalists have kept an eye on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet as an important indicator of global warming. A study published in Nature Climate Change last month said warming has increased to the point that the ice sheet will now experience “unavoidable” melting regardless of how much the world reduces emissions of planet-warming gases like carbon dioxide. The study’s lead author, Kaitlin Naughten, estimated that melting ice in Antarctica’s most at-risk areas could raise global sea levels by about 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) over the next few centuries.
Another study published in Science Advances, also last month, reported that nearly 50 Antarctic ice shelves have shrunk by at least 30% since 1997 and 28 of those have lost more than half their ice in that short period of time.
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