top of page

Ice melt & rising oceans 

01 Our Rising Oceans.jpg

By Stephen Fitzgerald

Long term prospects

NEWS FLASHAntarctica’s ice is melting faster than ever before - Friday May 17th 2019. "With ice melting from Antarctica’s solid ice sheets, global sea levels are set to rise dangerously. The West Antarctic ice sheet was stable in 1992 but now, a quarter of the sheet is thinning. Should this ice sheet completely melt, global sea levels will rise by over five metres".

A five metre sea level rise, from this single event, will flood every beach and every coastal city on the planet - We are now looking at the high end of sea level rise predictions and, we need to WAKE UP!


NEW SCIENTIST: Sea level rise could hit 2 metres by 2100 - much worse than feared - Monday May 20th 2019. "The world’s coastal cities have been warned to prepare for the possibility of a sea level rise exceeding 2 metres by the end of the century, with profound consequences for humanity."

We took action against the nuclear threat by building nuclear arsenals as aggressors but also as a defence. Nobody is game to launch the first strike for fear of annihilation. That fear drives a response. If our boarders and major cities were under attack we would rally together and respond with all our strength. We are prepared to fight to the death in defence of our families and our country if and when called upon.


What is coming is not a myth and it’s not an exaggeration and if you look out to sea, it’s on the horizon right now. Our entire 35,877km of Australian coastline and all our major cities are under threat. What is coming is backed up with hard-core scientific research, analysis, observation and evidence supported by the global scientific community. These are our greatest thinkers, our greatest minds and, they are telling us to act now on climate change. Increased global temperature, as a result of burning fossil fuel, results in extremes in weather, ice melt and sea level rise.


90 percent of the study’s simulations found that global sea-level rise will be between 93 cm (3’1”) and 243 cm (8’) during the 21st century under RCP8.5. As an example, under the high-end 8-foot scenario, impacts would be particularly heavy in the continental U.S., where sea level would rise substantially more than the global average. Due to regional effects driven mainly by land subsidence and gravitational effects linked to ice mass loss from Antarctica, sea-level rise of 9 to 11 feet (3 meters) would be expected along densely populated Gulf and Atlantic coasts. 150 million homes will be permanently flooded globally but it doesn’t stop there. The ocean will keeps rising beyond 2100.


The United Nations urges global leaders to act now on climate change or pay a higher price. So, what’s stopping us? Why the inaction from government and big business against this national and international threat? A threat so profound it has the potential to destroy the natural world and civilization as we know it. Imagine our beaches flooded and gone and a beautiful way of life destroyed along with it. If all land ice melted, sea level would rise approximately 70 meters (230 feet)  flooding our major cities. To get a grip on that, the Sydney harbour bridge has a clearance of 49 meters. Is this the future we want for our grand-children and beyond or, do we have the capacity to look a lifetime into the future?


The unprecedented catastrophic weather events we are experiencing, as a result of global warming, are one thing.  Clearly, when the cost runs into billions of dollars, as it did in the 2019 Queensland floods, there is an impact on real GDP with the capacity to drive a country into recession. Irrespective of that and irrespective of the lose of life, we can rebuild from floods and bush-fire and to some extent, we can adapt to extremes in weather. It’s a different storey with sea level rise and the global displacement of possibly billions of people. If there was ever a case for ‘prevention is better than cure’ then this is it.


Over millions of years of geologic time, sea level has gone through natural cycles, moving up and down 300 - 400 feet, roughly every hundred thousand years. We have now clearly broken out of that natural pattern, usually described as the ice ages. More than two hundred feet of potential sea level rise are still locked up in the ice sheets and glaciers on Greenland and Antarctica. Even the worst case scenarios show that full meltdown would take perhaps five hundred years on our current path. If we reverse global warming in time, we can prevent the full blown meltdown.


The oceans have already warmed by approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s one degree Celsius heading to 3 or 4 degree Celsius by 2100. Because of this, sea level rise is happening and is now unavoidable, despite efforts to curb CO2 emissions and slow the warming. Estimates for potential sea level rise this century now range from about three to ten feet (1-3 meters), depending somewhat on how warm the planet gets in the coming decades. In recent years the upper bounds have been raised several times, as Antarctic and Greenland ice melt has been exceeding the previous models and is accelerating faster than predicted.


Geologic records indicate that there was a warming event 14,000 years ago when sea level rose an average of a foot and a half (50 cm) a decade. The geologic record shows that, in just four centuries, global sea level rose some sixty five feet (20 m). This proves to us that rapid ice melt and vastly fluctuating sea levels can and do happen as we move into another extreme global warming event. 


We need to get it in our heads that we live on a planet where sea levels can, and do, fluctuate by up to 400 feet (120 metres) depending on global average temperature and the ice reservoir. We need to get it in our heads that we can manage accelerated warming by managing atmospheric CO2 concentration and the other green house gases we pump into the atmosphere that drive our current global warming scenario.


We need an awakening! Catastrophic sea level rise is outside the human experience. It might be seen as a “black swan event” –– something extraordinary that we deny until it has been experienced first hand. Today, average global sea level rise, since 1880 is 23cm but, for the casual observer, it’s lost in the changing of the tides. We can’t see it until we get king tides flooding our streets. And, on the other side of the world: King tides are back, flooding South Florida streets. It’s easy to understand why we are so apathetic but, it’s not an excuse for inaction, it’s just another part of the challenge.


The future of our civilization, economies, and communities depends on our ability to deal with these challenges. The burden of inaction will fall hardest on coastal dwellers worldwide, but will impact everyone, even those living far inland in terms of food production, water supply, mass migration and escalating extreme weather events. The sooner we get educated, plan, and adapt the better. Lets do that based on the hard core facts and the reality of melting ice sheets and glaciers. Lets do that based on knowledge that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, as a result of burning fossil fuels, is a key driver of rapid global warming and ice melt.


Already, sea level rise coupled with extreme tides and severe storms are causing enormous loss of land and coastal infrastructure. With each passing year, the rate of rise accelerates, as does the potential for economic devastation. Yet the damage could be lessened significantly if we have the vision and guidance to plan for this profound change.


The sooner that planners, engineers, architects, lawyers, financiers, legislators, investors, business leaders, and the public become informed, the quicker we can begin to take the necessary actions. With vision, creativity and planning, we can protect our future liveability and sustainability.


The key word for now is sustainability. We need a rapid transition to renewable clean energy from the sun, wind and hydro. We desperately need a government with a pro climate action agenda. We need governments that runs on social conscience rather than narcissism. We need a rapid phase-out of green-house gas emitting fossil fuels and, most importantly, we need to think of the future and we need to start thinking of that future right now. The world has just over a decade to get climate action under control.

As responsible global citizens, we need to keep an eye on what's happening: Fare from turning a corner, global CO2 emissions are accelerating and are now a staggering 35 to 40 billion tonnes per year as a result of burning fossil fuels. Driven by global warming comes a warnings from Antarctica. If much of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf thaws and slides into the sea, this century or next, from this event alone, sea levels could rise by up to 16 feet (4.8m).


To know where we stand it's worth a look at the IPCC Carbon Budget: The carbon budget is the maximum amount of carbon that can be released into the atmosphere while keeping a reasonable chance of staying below a global average 2°C temperature rise and avoid catastrophic climate change and devastating sea level rise. If we don't reduce our carbon emissions we will have a 1.5°C temperature rise within 11 years and 2°C temperature rise within 18 years. The world heating up by even 1.5C would have a brutal impact on future generations.


How much of the world's carbon budget have we spent and how much do we have left? Check the Carbon countdown clock

Comments (Now Closed)


SteveFitz April 1, 2019 at 1:29 pm

Phil – I’ve had a long hard look at why some politicians are concerned about society and others are in it for the spoils of office. Donald Trump is a perfect example of a “type” that are attracted to politics. Our own PM Scott Morrison fits into the same category. It’s what’s called narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) and there’s plenty written about it.

You can add this to right-wing ideology which dictates that they only care about themselves and not society unless there's a vote in it for them. The right-wing admit that they are the political arm of big business and look after the top end of town. For a politician, that’s where the election funds and contacts are, so give the top end whatever they want, is their priority. As Trump has done, surround yourself with billionaires and make billionaires your advisers.

What they want is money, power and control and there is a total disregard for the consequences to others. They don’t care who they hurt and if climate change stands in the way then, dismiss it. As we will see with the LNP government up until the 2019 elections when they changed their tune to win votes? A challenging example drawn from the bigger picture includes oil, natural gas, big business, politicians, war economies and trillions of dollars. View "In a nut shell" - It's about the oil wars ravaging the planet right now.

As part of that scenario, I notice that Trump has jumped into bed with Netanyahu in another play for U.S. control of the oil and natural gas reserves being tapped by Israel from under the nose of the Palestinians. All the vicious wars in the middle east are about control of oil and natural gas. Innocent civilians are raped, plundered, murdered and displaced with entire countries literally destroyed to make a few people filthy rich on the control and sale of oil and gas. The collapse of society in Venezuela is also about control of oil, 297 billion barrels of oil. The flow of refugees to the US southern border is partly driven by the battle to control oil and natural gas.

We have a handful of global warmongers and oil barons who, along with their expansive entourage including politicians, have become very skilful at diverting attention away from the main causes of global warming. They are quite happy to fight over and burn the last few drops of oil and the last puff of natural gas and they are oblivious to the fact that they are destroying the planet in the process. They are quite happy to drown our cities and destroy our homes on a global scale. It’s part of being narcissistic.

There is a solution and we can force their hands – We need to turf these war and fossil fuel sympathizers out of government. We have them outnumbered and we can use that at the ballot box and then, we can get on with action on climate change.


SteveFitz April 1, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Kaye Lee – Very nice words and, I’m with you – Future generations will be born into a world that seems normal to them and they will learn to adapt and survive in their world the same way we have in ours. Lets do what we can to make that future world as good as we can and in the mean time, enjoy what we have while we have it, in our own short time here.


SteveFitz April 1, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Joseph – As I ponder the folly of optimism it comes to mind that pointing out stark reality is more about enlightenment than despair. It’s something that all those great thinkers and philosophers, we refer to, would seek out willingly to broaden the mind and add clarity to their thinking.


Once upon a time, ignorance was bliss. The perpetual state that politicians would love to keep us in. They can no longer… We are now in a world of instant communication and social media and, I think collectively, we are in a much better position to manage what we have if we see the big picture and we understand the world as it is. A world where fossil fuel is god. A world where, if we burn it all we destroy ourselves. A world we can save by removing the demand for fossil fuels with a transition to renewable clean energy. 

We are in the same battle that has echoed down through the ages of man. The battle between right and wrong or good and evil. Nothing changes, just the stage settings and the plunder. In all these battles, and that’s what it is, you need to fully understand what you are up against and, we have that now. It's the same old battle for money, power and control and to the victors go the spoils of war. Today that's oil and natural gas and that's why the power brokers are in climate change denial. To protect their own interests.

We also have choices – Slump our shoulders and fade quietly into the night or use what we have and fight for what we want. I’m a fighter, not a giver-upper, so I’ll keep pushing for change and a better future. Everyone can do their bit at the ballot box and, on that note, I think I’ll join you and try some soma.


SteveFitz April 2, 2019 at 11:41 am

While I’m waiting, I’ll add a bit more – Corvus – We can split the atom to release unimaginable amounts of energy, we can convert water to hydrogen and oxygen for energy, we can capture energy directly from the sun and store it in batteries. We can also develop methods to extract CO2 from the atmosphere and cap global warming. “Atmospheric CO2 Management”

The prime objective, right now, should be to minimize green-house gas emissions to make the task of regulating atmospheric CO2 concentrations a little bit easier down the track. It’s not doomsday – It’s just a process and just another challenge for mankind as we transition to renewables and move into a new era.

We should be saving the last of our fossil fuel for manufacturing and recycling, not for burning. Future generations will look back in astonishment that we could be so stupid as to burn the most precious product the earth has to offer and, in the process, screw the environment and ourselves. You see Corvus, it’s about a change in thinking but first, we need to get rid of the knuckle draggers.


SteveFitz April 2, 2019 at 12:54 pm

Drake – I’m doing my bit as best I can – I get out there and talk to people, I discuss the issues face to face and on social media within my expansive network. There are lots of people and organizations drumming up community support on these issues. We are all in this together and we need to work together, as a society, to protect the future. We can’t bend peoples will or force open their eyes but, we can push for a majority in parliament that supports climate action. For that we just need a slight majority and, at the moment, the poles suggest we have that. So, keep pushing.

SteveFitz April 12, 2019 at 11:24 pm

Nick Carroll - Scientists suggest we have 12 years to act on climate change to minimize the impact of global warming and avoid catastrophic sea-level rise. Bang the table and wake up the surfing community. Don’t scare the kids, just engage the adults among us. We have a job to do “To protect our children's future”. We need a pro climate action government installed at the next federal election.


Overwhelmed by climate change? Here's what you can do


SteveFitz June 18, 2019 at 9:15 am


'No jobs on a dead planet', warns world's top union leader


I don't generally talk about a 'just transition' away from coal because I don't feel the need to state the obvious. But, when Sharan Burrow COA, the International Trade Union Confederation's general secretary warns Australian unionists against putting coal jobs ahead of environmental concerns, it's worth noting that there is some hope for the future.

Ms Burrows also points out, in the nicest possible way, that she is shocked to see that some of our people in Australian parliament are still in climate change denial. "For an educated country, if you don't read the science - then, goodness gracious, really". Personally, I believe, it speaks volumes about the self serving agenda of those same politicians.

Go to the next article: Our best future


bottom of page