In recent years there has been a controversy over the shrinking Arctic ice cover. Besides disputing the extent and the significance of the loss of ice, Denialists “refuted” scientific observations by referring to the Antarctic. In parts of the Antarctic ice cover was increasing, which was enough to provide talking points to Denialists who did not consider the whole picture.
Yesterday scientists reported that the collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in Western Antarctica appears to have begun. The collapse, which appears to be irreversible, will cause a sea level rise of such magnitude that many of the world’s coastal cities would eventually have to be abandoned.
What is interesting is that these recent events support an analysis that was first advanced in 1978 by the late John Mercer, a renowned glaciologist. Although he was criticized at the time, the most recent observations are exactly what he predicted.
To Denialists who wish to continue their denial of the consequences of global warming, we say “Don’t give up hope”. There are cautious statements in these reports that you can parade. For example, scientists attribute the collapse to the effect of warmer water upwelling from ocean depths. They say “other factors” are likely at work, and refer to the favoured Denialist talking point “natural variability.”
Yet Denialists will still have a problem: in their denials they will have to ignore the statement that continued release of Greenhouse Gases will almost certainly make the situation worse. We think they will find a way around this problem, given their ability to cherry-pick the facts.