The water is rising

Thwaites Glacier. Image credit: United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Research showing that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is breaking up lends an hallucinatory air to our political and business discourses, writes Natural Security columnist Chris Wood. We carry on as though the historical world will last forever, as if our biggest problem is which superpower or hedge fund will prevail — while our world is slipping into the sea.

An excerpt of Wood’s new column, The point of no return (subscription):

If there were before some footing left for doubt, narrow and slippery though it might have been, there is none left now. The world as it has been for the entirety of human history is on its way to the exits.

What makes this certain is a pair of studies of the behaviour of a glacier most of us have never given much thought to. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet is a vast ice-scape at the bottom of the world, nearly half again larger than Canada. And it is breaking up.

Indeed, the scientific teams that gathered the evidence of the ice-sheet’s retreat say its collapse is now “irreversible.” Evidently this Antarctic ice sheet—unlike it’s larger eastern counterpart—has been frozen at the bottom to what otherwise would be seabed, below the level of the oceans. What’s happening now is that the gale-force winds in the fabled ‘Roaring Forties’ south latitude, freshened further by climate change, are driving relatively warm liquid seawater between the ice and the bedrock it has been frozen to for millions of years.

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Chris Wood’s Natural Security column page is here.


Hear Chris Wood “talk dirty about water,” when he joins a panel of other authors and thinkers on stage at two events convened in Vancouver and Toronto by The Walrus magazine. Join the ‘Walrus Talks Water’ open discussion on May 22 in Vancouver or May 28 in Toronto. Tickets are available …  

Vancouver link:

Toronto link:


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