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The Impacts Of Melting Glacier Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 1713 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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It is clear that the earth is getting hotter due to global warming. It was proved that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere had increased from 316 ppm in 1958 to 385 ppm in 2008 (Kirkham 2011, p.370) leading to the “Greenhouse effects” and causing many environmental issues as well as especially worsening the issue of melting glaciers. Many researches have showed that glaciers are melting rapidly and it is unlikely to slower down. Take Greenland as an example. On the eighth of July 2012, the percentage of glacier melting in this country was forty percent. However, four days later, this “figure had jumped to ninety-seven percent” (Kerthan 2012) (see Appendix 1).

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As a result, a serious flooding occurred in Greenland recently. This country contains ten percent of the world’s fresh water; yet, all the glaciers are melting and it is expected that by the end of this century, the sea level will have risen by eighteen to fifty-nine centimeters (Miller and Spoolman 2011). The flood happened in Kangerlussuaq, has swept away an important bridge and the “busiest commercial airports” of the island (The Guardian 2012).

Greenland is just one example out of lots of other countries which are suffering from disasters because of glacier melting that threatens their food source including crops and animals, and even worse, destroys their homes.

In the following part, the effects of glacier melting on human life, particularly food sources will be enlightened with supporting specific evidences and information.

The impacts of melting glacier

Today, the increasing temperature is causing ice caps on Mount Kilimanjaro and ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland to melt (Lovgren 2004a) (see Appendix 2). This has resulted in the rise in sea level, causing many problems to the nature balance. Cold water fish cannot survive and even coral reefs are dying as the water is becoming too warm. This causes problems for people fishing them as a food source and influences the fisheries in general. Besides, Lovgren (2004b) said that the rising sea level can have serious impacts on low-lying countries, some of which like Indian Ocean’s Maldives or Nile Delta could be submerged. Not only will fishing be affected but people will also have difficulties in finding higher ground for living.

An imbalance in nature’s food chain would be caused by global warming. As ice sheets melt in the Antarctic, the polar bears would be adversely affected since the temperature is too warm for them to live. “Polar bears are entirely dependent on sea ice, you lose sea ice, you lose polar bears” (Malcolm 2004). Additionally, the seal and sea lion population that would otherwise be controlled by polar bears as part of their diet would multiply and overpopulation may occur, causing many fishes being eaten and depleted. This depletion affects fisheries and people living in the northern hemisphere because they must then find other food sources which would be difficult as their main source of protein and food are fish.

It is interesting that the glacial melting is the reason of two opposite effects: floods and drought (Mathias 2012). However, they are all connected.

The fast glacier melting will lead to “sudden increase in water input to rivers, causing flood all along the rivers” (Mathias 2012). Floods could impact seriously on crops growth, it “can have a negative effect on the financial performance of farming as a result of crop damage … reduced crop and livestock yield and quality/condition” (Thorne et al. 2007, p.130). Therefore, our food sources are threatened seriously. For instance, a recent flooding this year in Burma has driven eighty-five thousands of people homeless and more than two hundred thousand hectares of rice field swamped (The Guardian 2012).

In contrast, drought is a big problem in other countries because glacier melting changes the currents of the ocean’s cold and warm water. It changes the wind patterns that move cloud and humidity through the air, causing the imbalance in water distribution (Britney 2012). Since May this year, North Korea has been suffering the most severe drought in 105 years which threatened to damage this country’s “breadbasket”. The area was also notified an estimated amount of 3.5 million people are with the risk of malnutrition and famine (The Telegraph 2012).

Furthermore, the rise in sea level caused by melting glacier also leads to the intrusion of sea water. This has affected the fresh water and land used for living and agriculture. For example, in Thatta, a major agricultural area in Pakistan, the amount of land suitable for agriculture has shown a significant decrease. Around one third of fertile land and cultivated areas there have been affected by the seawater intrusion (Emerton 2005). This causes losses for crops and serious damages to livestock due to the shortage of pasture, rangeland, and fresh water needed for cattle rearing.

Impacts on rice cultivation may be the most noticeable. As rice is a “salt-sensitive crop” (Adger et al. 2001a, p.248), the increased salinity in soil can hinder rice growth and affect rice production. World Bank (2000) indicated that increased salinity alone from a 0.3 meter sea level rise will cause a net decrease of 0.5 million metric tons of rice production (cited in Sarwar 2005, p.19). For example, this salinity intrusion caused 50% to 90% drop in rice productivity over the past three decades in Tra Vinh province of Vietnam (Hopkins 1995, cited in Adger et al. 2001b, p.248).

Additionally, the rising sea level also influences fresh water fish. Liu and Esogbue (1999a, p.121) said that “sea level rise will, in all likelihood, bring about a reduction in the freshwater habitat conditions particularly in the rivers. In the event of such a situation, production of fresh water fishes…which cannot tolerate any level of salinity in the water is likely to suffer”. In places where pond or lake fishery provides the major source of food and income, may face many difficulties if the sea level continues increasing. For instance, Liu and Esogbue(1999b) shown that in many coastal districts of Bangladesh, carps is a major agricultural product and pond culture of carps is widely practised. According to the authors, there were totally 105.5 thousand metric tons of carps produced in freshwater ponds of those districts between the years of 1995 and 1996. So, the rise in sea level may lead to these ponds being submerged, causing huge losses in carp production.

Solutions for the issue of melting glacier

The only way to slow down glacial melting is to slow down global warming. There are many measures having been done.

Humankind depends on burning fossil fuels for power, but it increases global warming. To restore the glaciers we should increase energy efficiency and utilize alternative energy like wind power, solar energy, or biofuel (Leon 2008).

Technology innovation like Chlorine-free paper and Greenfreeze solution which is adopted in refrigeration manufacturing to avoid CFCs – a chemical affecting ozone layer (Rose 2010) also helps slow down global warming.

Additionally, treaties like Global Black-Carbon or Global Carbon Tax are formed to engage countries in the emissions reduction (Dauncey 2009a). For example, Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement established in 1997, sets targets for 37 industrialized countries and European community to reduce their greenhouse gases emissions. (Leimkuhler 2010).

Other solutions include protecting the world’ forests and grasslands, establishing the global climate funds to assist poor countries in adopting climate-friendly technologies. In a national scope, governments encourage their citizens to use greener energy by establishing solar villages like those in Bangladesh or ecological capitals like those in Colombia and Brazil (Dauncey 2009b).

All the solutions need public support, so governments must educate and convince their people to follow the climate-friendly strategies. Besides, they need to support citizens’ organizations that are taking practical actions to promote and build a greener society (Dauncey 2009c).


To conclude, problems of melting glacier will still happen in the future because “continued increases in global temperature will accelerate the rate of glacier melt, sea ice retreat, and melting of the ice caps” (Dawson and Spannagle 2009, p.334). Many studies have shown that the earth’s temperature will continue increasing for some reasons. Reducing greenhouse gases faces many difficulties as our modern society will still depend on fossil fuels for energy (Seeds and Backman 2010, Armstrong and Howarth 2005). Claussen (2001, pp.83-84) stated that “…the emissions growth in Argentina, Brazil, China, India, and Korea will increase by two-thirds by 2015 under the most optimistic scenarios”. Based on analysis of gases emission, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) estimates that the global temperature may show a rise of 2°C to 6°C by the end of this 21st century (cited in Holt and West 2011, p.141).

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Besides, even if “greenhouse gases are stabilized, global air temperature and sea level are expected to continue to rise for hundreds of years” (Mooney et al. 2010a, p.481). The authors’ explanation for this is that the present global warming will lead to further warming of the earth. For instance, the melting of ice will expose land and ocean area below which normally captures more heat than the ice, causing a warmer planet (Mooney et al. 2010b).

Global warming results in melting glacier. When the earth’s temperature continue rising in years to come, the glaciers will keep melting in a faster manner than it used to, just like what Meier and Dyurgerov (2005) stated “glacier ice melt is accelerating in recent years, and is likely to continue at a high rate into the future” (cited in Braasch and McKibben 2009, p.40).


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