By Burak Bir
ANKARA (AA) - Millions of more people may become climate refugees in a world, where unprecedented melting of ice will continue to increase the sea level due to the human-induced global warming, an environment expert said.
This month saw to record temperatures over two successive weeks on the Antarctic Peninsula, where 90% of all the world's glaciers are located, once again raising the question of how melting ice and rising sea levels could affect the world's inhabitants.
Sedimentologist Attila Ciner told Anadolu Agency that human-made measures -- such as those used by the Netherlands -- would not prevent significant loss of life and property on the coasts as coasts continue to move inland.
"It is a matter of time before we face a human tragedy 'climate migration,' especially people in small island countries and poor countries, such as Bangladesh, where more than 200 million people live at less than a meter above sea level," said Ciner, a member of the Eurasia Institute of Earth Sciences at Istanbul Technical University
Noting that this would be a "worst case scenario" resulting from the human-induced increase in greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere, Ciner said that even in the best case, temperatures would warm by at least 1.5 degrees.
He said the current global heat rise was much higher than the average during 20th century, adding that this would not mean that all glaciers on Antarctica were melting.
"It was observed that while glaciers have melted on the Antarctic Peninsula in the west of the continent, glaciers in the east of the continent and inland have been expanding. This clearly reveals that the climate is regulated by the effects of local conditions," said Ciner.
Constituting approximately 98% of the world's ice, Antarctica's continental glaciers are crucial, with ice covering 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles) and containing 27 million cubic km (6.5 million cubic miles) of ice.
"Approximately 61% of all fresh water on the Earth, including rivers and groundwater, is in Antarctica," he said, adding that the mean thickness of the Antarctic ice sheet is 2.2 km.
The thermometer of the Argentine research base Esperanza read the historic temperature of 18.3 C (65 F) on the Antarctic Peninsula, breaking a previous record from 2015 of 17.5 C (63.5 F) at the same site on Feb. 6.
On Feb. 13, a new high of 20.75 C (69.35 F) was recorded on Antarctic, exceeding the 20 C mark for the first time on record.
- Hotspot of environmental change
"The Antarctic Peninsula has long been a hotspot of environmental change, with almost 90% of the western peninsula's 674 glaciers receding since the 1940s due to ocean warming," Chris Johnson, senior manager at Antarctic Program of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), told Anadolu Agency.
Comparing the melt in the Antarctic with that in the Arctic, Johnson asserted that the region lost more sea ice in only the last four years than the Arctic did in over 30.
"Antarctic ice shelves have shrunk in size by almost one quarter since the 1950s and the continent has lost 3 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992," he added.
Touching on the situation of wildlife in the region, he stressed that the survival of many iconic polar species, such as whales and penguins are under serious threat as human-induced global warming is reducing the critical sea ice habitats in the Antarctic.
"The duration of sea ice cover has decreased by 85 days in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, resulting in population declines for sea ice-dependent Adelie and chinstrap penguins," he said, adding that the population of emperor penguins were predicted to decline from 40% to 99% by the end of the century.
He went on to say that krill, a key species in the Antarctic food web, has already faced habitat problems due to the climate change along the peninsula and Scotia Sea at its tip.
"This shift in krill distribution is likely to impact baleen whales, such as humpback, minke and fin, that feed along the Antarctic Peninsula with effects on body condition, reproductive fitness and population abundance," said Johnson.
Antarctica is "ground zero" for the world's climate breakdown and warming oceans and melting ice that raise sea levels could affect one billion people by 2050, with iconic polar species facing the risk of extinction, he warned.
Johnson went on to say that temperature records are yet another signal that people "must" accelerate their efforts for emissions reduction to protect the largest remaining wilderness on the planet.
"Immediate and scaled up actions to reduce emissions can help reduce the worst risks projected by the world's top scientists," Johnson suggested.
The current average in the speed of rising sea level is now 3.6 mm a year -- more than twice as fast as during the last century -- and levels could rise more than a meter by 2100 if we continue to churn out greenhouse gases, according to the latest report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released last year.