THE BLOG
06/19/2014 09:44 am ET | Updated Aug 19, 2014

When Will Polar Ice Melt Be a Burning Issue?

Alamy

Twelve days of talks on climate change in Bonn have ended without any real progress, even though delegates were told we have entered an era of "irreversible" polar ice melting. The negotiations were intended to create a global pact in 2015 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. If approved 195 countries would make voluntary pledges on carbon gases so that warming does not go over a threshold of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-industrial times.

The pact would also provide financial aid to vulnerable, under-developed countries to shore up their defenses against flooding and other impacts from climate change and provide cleaner technology to help wean them off fossil fuels. Now we wait for a UN summit in September to see if any progress can be made.

The foot-dragging is incomprehensible, considering scientific conclusions announced last week that a major section of Antartica's ice sheet will completely melt in coming centuries, raising sea levels higher than previously predicted. Warm ocean currents have contributed to kicking off a chain reaction at the Amundsen Sea-area glaciers, melting them faster and pushing them "past the point of no return," according to NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot.

For those who think that's too far in the future to worry about, well, it's not. As early as 2050 -- Bangladesh's 22-35 million people will inevitably have to be re-located as two thirds of this nation are less than 5 meters above the sea level. The flooding from sea levels rising is saltwater. This will ruin the rice crops, forcing millions of farmers to be transplanted.

In addition to Bangladesh, the other biggest threats are Calcutta and Mumbai in India, Ghargzhou, China and Minh City, Vietnam. All low-lying island nations are in harm's way.

Wealthier countries are not exempt from catastrophic consequences. We have already seen the devastation from flooding from tropical storms on the East Coast cities with lives lost, homes destroyed and major disruptions of subway and other transportation services. Florida is definitely on the radar, along with the Chesapeake area and coastal regions of Louisiana and Texas. Land is sinking and the ocean rising in those states. In the world's largest port cities, 40 million people are at risk.

Still not close enough for you? I have news for my friends in Washington -- those climate change deniers -- primarily the Republicans who refuse to believe science, preferring to listen to the Tea Party naysayers. Close to 70,000 Washingtonians could be affected by flood waters, resulting from the sea level rising.

So who is going to take action and responsibility for the human link to these pending catastrophic consequences? The GOP is likely to become even more entrenched in denial about climate change, thanks to David Brat's upset of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Republican primary. Brat has said rich nations don't need to fear climate change. A Pew survey last fall found 41 percent of Tea Party members said global warming wasn't happening. California Governor Jerry Brown tells us that virtually no Republican in D.C. supports climate change.

It is appalling that Green is today's McCarthyism. A few Republicans behind closed doors will nod their heads that they believe the scientific community, but their stronger belief is that they will lose voters if they come clean and seek legislation to protect the environment. The GOP will need more brave politicians like Jon Huntsman, who supported climate change when he ran for the Republican presidential nomination.

The new ice age is here to stay and every year, climates are hotter on dry land and below -- all the way to the oceans' floors. Who can deny our weather is more extreme on this planet? We can't change the reality that the 'Ice-man cometh,' but we can perhaps, slow its acceleration by empowering our government leaders. We are not powerless over the use of our collective support-- to urge our leaders and corporations to continue driving greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants down. An overall broadening of the EPA's powers in common sense ways is not heresy as many Republicans would have us believe.

Let's accept and deal with it -- that our future is much closer than we want to admit and what we do today affects tomorrow.