By Jacey Gould

You may be thinking, “Greenland? Nothing ever happens in Greenland! What could be happening in Greenland that affects me?”

This may be surprising, but for more than a year, “a lake of glacial meltwater drain beneath Greenland’s ice sheet” has been occurring. This is important because the rapid rate at which this is happening is a clear, tangible example of the urgent problem of climate change. And climate change affects us all.

The Problem in Greenland

Greenland is losing startling amounts of ice to climate change each year, and when the ice melts, melted ice and solid ice sheets move to the ocean at a faster rate, which both contribute to a rise in sea level. According to the Colorado University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), “If all the ice that is on Greenland were to melt or calve into the ocean, global sea level would rise 7.2 meters (21 feet.)”

Disappearing Lakes

If you were to go to Greenland, there’s a chance you’d see lakes on the surface of Greenland’s ice sheet. This is all well and good on its own, but the lakes are actually in constant danger of draining through a break in the ice and ending up underneath the ice sheet. For example, one day when a group of scientists were studying this occurrence, what they found was startling.

“They found that nearly 5 million cubic meters of water—the equivalent of about 2,000 Olympic swimming pools—drained from the lake in just five hours.”

This should not be happening.

Why Sea Level Matters

So why would a rising sea level be such a big concern, anyway? Well, many islands and coasts could soon be underwater by the year 2045. That’s only 25 years from now, which, in the grand scheme of the world, is not a long time. We don’t have forever to fix this.

Not only that, but according to the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists, once the century is over, “homes and commercial properties currently worth more than $1 trillion could be at risk. This includes as many as 2.4 million homes—the rough equivalent of all the homes in Los Angeles and Houston combined—that are collectively valued today at approximately $912 billion.”

What We Can Do

To slow this melting process, it is our duty to use cleaner energy and to be much more environmentally-conscious than we have been “trying” to be. There is always a little room for each of us to do better for the planet.

If we didn’t already have a reason to use more sustainable energy, maybe the thought of California or Texas going completely underwater will scare us into it. Just maybe, knowing this information about Greenland will cause us to start behaving as though climate change really is the emergency scientists have claimed it to be–because it is.