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SINKING ICE CAPS IN GREENLAND: SOLUTIONS TO ADJUDICATE THE CLIMATE CHANGE LAWS

INTRODUCTION

“To all of you who choose to look the other way every day because you seem more frightened of the changes that can prevent catastrophic climate change than the catastrophic climate change itself” – Greta Thunberg.

Climate is an essential entity of the environment by which temperature, rainfall, atmospheric pressure and seasons are determined by the meteorological departments. The existence of an ecosystem in society has profoundly made human resources accessible and the survival of the community is interlinked with it. In recent years, the rapid variations in global climate structure have led to the concept of “climate change” which effectively broke the framework of the natural cycle, posing a deep threat to economic, political and structural growth on a societal level. The alarming increase in global temperature, unnecessary tropical cyclones, worsened air quality, frequent forest fires and rising sea levels are the chief exponents of climate change. The violent nature of climate change can be traced to “shrinking ice caps in Greenland” failing to incorporate the climate change laws. Rising temperatures in Greenland have destroyed the ecosystem, threatening to sustain the livelihood of the citizens of Greenland. NASA’s GRACE satellite has indicated that between 2002 and 2020, Greenland shed about 279 million metric tons of ice per year which adds to the global rise in sea level.[1] Urgent need to save Greenland’s ice caps by emancipating climate change laws and rendering policy resolutions in the international arena.   

What role does Climate Change play in the shrinking of ice caps in Greenland?

Climate change is the main culprit for the melting of ice sheets, iceberg calving, rising sea levels and increasing temperature. Over the years, chunks of icebergs break off splashing to increase the sea water level, emission of poisonous gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other greenhouse gases ozone, methane, chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) and hydrofluorocarbons (HCFs) resulting in in the rapid melting of glaciers which makes unsuitable for adaptation of human livelihood and wildlife habitat. Scientists determine the world’s frozen regions of annual ice loss measured by effective satellites and measuring accurately the rise of seawater by loss of ice. Greenland’s summer season has warmer air temperatures with the melting of ice sheets, 2012 saw an extreme rise of about 97% of the ice sheet which melt at the top layer.[2] The snow-capped glaciers have been compacted into layers of ice and also measuring the melting of the ice at surface runoff breaks iceberg calving at the ocean. Greenland’s ice sheet reached more than 1 mile thick on average and about 7000,000 cubic miles of ice, it has been in the same place for more than 1 million years; the melting of Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets observed global sea rise between 2006 and 2015.[3] Scientists have designed specific climate change indicators for Greenland by way of measuring the height of the ice sheet surface, relative to sea level; variations in Earth’s gravitational field would cause any changes in the density of Earth’s crust, this technique uses pair of satellites; the input-output method which combines various sources about ice sheets and rates for causes of ice loss affecting heavily the tip of the ice sheet. The increasing temperatures in the summer months, led to the melting of the glacier’s surface as the creation of pools took place and, the glacial meltwater does not contain salt while it is less dense while undercutting the depth of the fjord and the amount of climate water flowing out of glacier; these factors are responsible for melting of glacial water which eventually increases the amount of ocean temperature.[4]

Do Climate Change laws protect Ice Caps in Greenland?

The state of the Greenland Ice Sheet project is described by Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) to maximize the impact on European Space Agency (ESA) satellite data analyzing climate change research based on Envisat, Cryosat and GRACE satellites.[5] The ice sheet modelling community is working on different resolutions, databases and satellite communications focused on different goals to investigate changes in the level of ice sheets in the past and future scenarios associated with climate models. The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIs) is an international research community with a formalized program for monitoring the changes found in scientific notification. The Danish Arctic portal forms part of the UN agency World Meteorological Organization (WMO) that 2021 marked the 25th year in a row in which Greenland’s ice sheet has increased melting during the winter season, according to the observation made by World Weather Attribution determined that polar melting could be emphasized as a result of atmospheric warming caused by destructible human activities.[6] In 2020, about 110 square km which is roughly about 80 km long and 20 km wide, a huge chunk of Greenland’s ice cap has broken off in the northeastern Arctic; glacial scientists are in deep concern about the progressive disintegration of the Arctic’s largest ice shelf.[7] The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and WMO recognized the loss of ice sheets as changes in climatic variables within the Global Climate Observing System. Marking changes in the volume of ice sheets, global polar statistics and indicating factors for sea level rise have been pointed out through operative satellite imagery; the WMO Polar Space Task Group engages in the development of satellite censorship and consolidated methods for observing ice sheets with high-resolution data in margins where the vulnerability rate is higher particularly for flowing ice streams and glacial lumps.[8]

REMEDIES & STRATEGIES TO PROTECT ICE SHEETS 

Scientists are discovering efficient techniques to save vast sheets of ice in Greenland and other arctic regions.

  • Climatologists proposed the technique of solar geoengineering constituting an artificial reduction of the amount of solar radiation limiting the melting of ice caps and fewer effects of global warming.
  • Reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and limiting global temperatures.
  • Reduction of carbon footprints per individual would diminish the harmful impacts of climate change.
  • Wind Turbines act as a renewable source of energy and reduce the use of fossil fuels that causes global warming.
  • Industrial units should undergo filtration of harmful gases before releasing them, although making them eco-friendly.
  • Strict actions should be taken by Government agencies against deforestation, mining activities, felling trees, and burning unwanted substances to protect ice sheets.
  • Switching to sustainable transport systems such as electric vehicles, and hydrogen automated vehicles.
  • An awareness campaign and workshops should be organized by the Government on the eradication of climate change and effective techniques should be followed by the public.
  • The UNFCCC convention has recognized stabilising greenhouse gases, allowing ecosystems to adapt to climate change and also ensuring economic development sustainably and protectively.
  • Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty under UNFCCC to achieve the stabilization of greenhouse gases at an atmospheric level that prevents interference with the climate system.
  • The EPA’s Clean Air Act addresses climate change rules and regulations to control air pollution on a national level, EPA is a body that formulates laws and regulations according to the greenhouse effect.
  • Implementation of health protection units by EPA affecting power plants through the Acid Rain Program (ARP), air pollution programs and Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS); these programs have eventually led to reducing the emission of harmful gases.[9]
  • EU has adopted a climate change policy that aims for carbon neutrality by 2050 and a massive reduction of about 55% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.[10]

CONCLUSION

The 21st century witnessed several destructions from global pandemics to natural catastrophes with violent activities of climate change can be demonstrated in Greenland. Earth has an abundance of natural resources which are utilized according to the needs of human sustainability and also exploited on the basis of its unnecessary abundance of it which is basically of no use to humans, creating irreparable damage to the climatic structure by not using the environment-friendly mechanism. Humans are too engrossed in the technological arena that has utterly forgotten the existence of the “environment” in society; will technology be able to provide oxygen to sustain? – It’s the neglecting environment that supplies oxygen for human survival but still, human society is so ignorant to give minimum respect to environmental well-being despite deriving benefits from it. The ozone layer present in the troposphere acts as a lifeline to the planet, as it engulfs all sorts of poisonous gases emitted from vehicles, industries, burning of fire-crackers and spoiling electronic devices; the more amount of poisonous gases hit the ozone layer the protective covering will eventually become weak to uphold the structure. The climatic structure in Greenland’s ice caps is thrashed due to increased surface temperature resulting in an unusual rise in sea levels. However, the institutionalization of different conventions, policies, strategies, researcher’s studies and sophisticated holding of technology to protect against climate change – didn’t give many positive results. Still, constant follow-up of these measures can bring a sustainable environment in respect of melting ice caps and would have a happier Greenland in near future.

Author Name: Samprity Halder (Hazra Law College, Department of Law, Calcutta University)

References:

[1] NASA CLIMATE CHANGE , <https://climate.nasa.gov/faq/48/are-the-land-based-ice-sheets-in-greenland-and-antarctica-continuing-to-lose-mass ice/#:~:text=The%20Greenland%20ice%20sheet’s%20mass,to%20global%20sea%20level%20rise > (last visited Aug 22, 2022)

[2] NASA CLIMATE CHANGE , <https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2328/warming-seas-and-melting-ice-sheets/ > (last visited Aug 22, 2022)

[3] US EPA , <https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indicators-ice-sheets> (last visited Aug 23, 2022)

[4] NASA CLIMATE CHANGE , <https://climate.nasa.gov/news/3062/warming-seas-are-accelerating-greenlands-glacier-retreat/> (last visited Aug 23, 2022)

[5] ESA ,< https://climate.esa.int/en/projects/ice-sheets-greenland/about/ >  (last visited Aug 23, 2022)

[6]  UNITED NATIONS , <https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/01/1109352 >  (last visited Aug 23, 2022)

[7] WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANISATION , <https://public.wmo.int/en/resources/bulletin/ice-sheet-observations-from-space >  (last visited Aug 23, 2022)

[8] UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE , <https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-convention/what-is-the-united-nations-framework-convention-on-climate-change>  (last visited Aug 23, 2022)

[9] US EPA , < https://www.epa.gov/climate-change/climate-change-regulatory-actions-and-initiatives>  (last visited Aug 24, 2022)

[10] 2021PORTUGAL.EU , < https://www.2021portugal.eu/en/news/european-parliament-passes-european-climate-law/> (last visited Aug 24, 2022)