Iceland is home to one of the largest glaciers in Europe, the eminent Vatnajökull. Covering roughly 8% of the country’s landmass, it’s also becoming a startling example of global warming in the North.
A newly published report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focuses on the impacts of global warming from a physical science basis. The potential harm outlined in the report comes from changes tracked from the depths of the ocean to the mesosphere and everything in between.
Implications for Iceland
With glaciers melting and permafrost decreasing, the risk of landslides is rising. That risk is further heightened with warmer winters bringing increased rain instead of snow.
In December 2020 Seyðisfjörður was under a state of emergency due to devastating landslides which ultimately displaced hundreds of residents. Just months ago, two houses were damaged in a landslide in Varmahlíð.
Permafrost thawing has been widespread in the Arctic regions since the 1980’s. With that comes increased carbon release — the main culprit of global warming.
Glaciers have also been shrinking at an alarming rate around the world over the past 30 years due to global warming, Kjarninn reported. This trend has its own implications in Iceland where sea levels are rising from the rapid decline in Arctic ice. Global warming is also exacerbating the weakening of the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic. This ocean current is largely responsible for regulating Iceland’s climate.
Ocean acidification due to increased carbon monoxide absorbed from the atmosphere is also a major concern for Iceland considering the island’s dependence on the sea.
This exhaustive report, the first of its kind since 2013, was compiled by 234 authors from 66 countries as well as 517 contributing authors. The release of the report has prompted UN Chief António Guterres to state that the report signifies “a code red for humanity”.
The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, aims to keep global temperature rise under 2° this century. This report demonstrates that there is still much to be done at all levels of society to combat human-lead climate change.
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