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Decisions made in the next decade will determine whether Antarctica suffers dramatic changes that contribute to a metre of global sea level rise.
In a new study, scientists argue that time is running out to save this unique ecosystem, and that if the right decisions are not made to preserve Antarctica in the next ten years then the consequences will be felt around the world.
Results - Today - Nature - State - Antarctica
Their results, published today in Nature, assess the state of Antarctica in 2070 under two scenarios, which represent the opposite extremes of action and inaction on greenhouse gas emissions and environmental protection.
Antarctica is affected by many global changes, but in turn it also affects the global environment. For example, one of the largest uncertainties in future sea-level rise predictions is how the Antarctic ice sheet reacts to human-induced global warming.
Ocean - Antarctica - Amount - Carbon - Dioxide
The Southern Ocean around Antarctica also absorbs a large amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, slowing the rate of climate change. However, it can only absorb so much CO2, and absorbing excess amounts increases the acidity of the water, harming marine life.
To see what the future might hold, an international team of researchers, including scientists at Imperial College London, has predicted what would happen under two future scenarios. Firstly, if emissions rise unabated and regulation in Antarctica fails to keep up with changes; and secondly if emissions are significantly reduced through regulations informed by research.
Authors - Scenario - Choices - Decade - Mitigation
The authors argue that which scenario plays out depends significantly on choices made over the next decade, on both climate-change mitigation plans and on environmental regulation. For example, there is currently a moratorium on mining in Antarctica, but as global population rises this accord could be threatened.
Co-author Professor Martin Siegert, from the Grantham Institute—Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial, said: "Some of the changes Antarctica will face are already irreversible, such...
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