Greenland Matters

fate of greenland

This book presents the evidence that Greenland has experienced two abrupt climate changes in historic times and scores of abrupt climate changes in recent geologic history as documented in Greenland’s ice records. Greenland appears to be poised at the edge of another rapid climate change, which in the past has propagated climate changes across both hemispheres. Therefore, it is in all of our interests to pay attention to Greenland, because in the fate of Greenland lie clues to the fate of the world.
Greenland, in other words, matters
.” — from The Fate of Greenland: Lessons From Abrupt Climate Change

Greenland is the world’s largest island, ninety percent of which is covered by ice. The ice is already melting, but what if the pace quickly accelerates? That nightmare scenario is explored in The Fate of Greenland: Lessons From Abrupt Climate Change by Philip Conkling, Richard Alley, Wallace Broecker, and George Denton (with photos by Gary Comer).

So what’s at stake?

The ice sheet is big — 7.3 meters or 23 feet of sea level rise is tied up in Greenland ice. Melt all of Greenland’s ice, and the world’s oceans will rise a lot. In comparison, the deepest water in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina breached the levees was about 20 feet; the water was pumped out after a couple of weeks, but the damage was enormous. The fate of Greenland has the possibility of putting all of the low-lying parts of the big coastal cities into such a predicament.


Are we talking about natural variation, or man-made climate change?

The ice-core records confirm our understanding of the climate, and they give us great confidence in our projection that business-as-usual human fossil fuel burning will change the climate in ways that affect us and other living things, with the effects becoming more negative as the climate changes become bigger.”


The Fate of Greenland author team: George Denton, Richard Alley, Philip Conkling, Gary Comer and Wallace Broecker.

And here’s two more books from the Land Library’s shelves that take the long-view on climate change:

The Two-Mile Time Machine: Ice Cores, Abrupt Climate Change, and Our Future by Richard Alley, The Little Ice Age: The Prelude to Global Warming: 1300-1850 by Brian Fagan.


Upper Qinguadalen Valley near Julianehab in southern Greenland (photo by Gary Comer).

For much more on The Fate of Greenland, and the remarkable author team assembled, read on for Justin Gillis’ excellent post in The New York Times!


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