Laser Talk: How to Defuse the Antarctic Climate Bomb

Laser Talk: How to Defuse the Antarctic Climate Bomb

A new paper in Nature published in the last week of March 2023, shows how meltwater increases around Antarctica are set to slow down dramatically the Antarctic overturning circulation, with a potential collapse this century. This will devastate the marine biodiversity around Antarctica because the food chains will collapse. The good news, this is avoidable.

The density of surface water around the Antarctic marginIn the simulations, scientists found that when they include upcoming meltwater changes around Antarctica, the abyssal overturning cell declines by more than 40% by 2050.

This is driven by a reduction in the density of surface water around the Antarctic margin, which in turn sees greater intrusion of warm Circumpolar Deep Water onto the shelf.

subsurface warming in the Amundsen - Bellingshausen Seas The resulting subsurface warming in the Amundsen – Bellingshausen Seas is particularly concerning.  This would lead to an amplifying feedback with further ice shelf melt and sea-level rise, in a region that we know from paleo records is vulnerable to ice sheet collapse.

Another concern is that as the Antarctic overturning slows, nutrient-rich water is left to accumulate on the seafloor, instead of being returned to the surface to feed marine ecosystems.

A reduction in the ocean uptake of carbon dioxide has also been documented in this same study.  Another amplifying feedback.

Final important point: the projections were run under a ‘business as usual’ scenario. Deep and urgent emissions reductions will give us a chance of avoiding an ocean overturning collapse.

The overall conclusions of the IPCC AR6 Final Synthesis report were clear: we can diffuse the climate time bomb and there are the financial resources globally available to do so.

To have a chance of saving the Antarctic ecosystem, we must directly address the primary source of greenhouse gas pollution: fossil fuels. More specifically, we must redirect trillions of dollars of financial flows away from fossil fuels if we are to prevail. As well, we must be mindful that some within the fossil fuel industry have been running a disinformation campaign for decades to confuse the masses.

In the 2000s many of us started learning about the science of climate change. In the 2020s, it is imperative that we all learn the basics of climate finance. As the Mandalorian would sayThis is the way. The key now is public understanding of the powerful ways to redirect financial flows globally away from fossil fuels and towards a thriving and equitable future. That is our wheelhouse at Citizens’ Climate International.

We need you on the bomb squad. Join us to find out more.