Here’s about as chilling a lede* as you’ll see in an American newspaper these days:

A hundred years from now, humans may remember 2014 as the year that we first learned that we may have irreversibly destabilized the great ice sheet of West Antarctica, and thus set in motion more than 10 feet of sea level rise.


Nature Geoscience via

Ten Feet?  That would turn Florida into Venice – the ground floor of almost every building would be uninhabitable. Miami Beach already has salt water sloshing its way through the sewers into the streets. This is not good news.

This is the big issue, and it’s complicated. I highly recommend this story from the Washington Post about how the Antarctic ice shelves are melting and falling into the sea because the water under them is too warm. The story is specific and detailed, and has some links you should follow and read closely.

One of the major surprises, to me at least, is how much water the shelves contain.

Americans have a greater risk than most

As Americans, our risk is greater than most. There’s probably some justice in that — we’ve contributed more than any other country to the carbon dioxide level in the air, and as one result of developing such a strong economy we have more resources than any other country, which is to say we can afford to build seawalls around Miami and New York.

This explanation of our heightened risk is interesting in itself:

Northern Hemisphere residents and Americans in particular should take note — when the bottom of the world loses vast amounts of ice, those of us living closer to its top get more sea level rise than the rest of the planet, thanks to the law of gravity.

Read the whole story, plus the links, if you’re not sure why gravity will make sea-level rise affect us more than other countries.

Good news – If you’re an adult it probably won’t have a huge direct impact on you, but (bad news) your children and grandchildren will pay the price.

  • In my days as a journalist in Washington and Europe, the name of the first paragraph was “lead.” Now it’s morphed into “lede.” Same thing. Maybe next year it’ll be “leed.”