Jan 20, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Burning Of Fossil Fuels Could Melt Antarctica

Sep 15, 2015 06:26 PM EDT

A study published online showed that if all the gas and fossil fuels in the Earth will be consumed and burned, it would melt the whole Antarctic ice sheet that would cause a massive rise in sea level. Fossil fuels are the combustible geologic deposits of organic materials, formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted to crude oil, coal and natural gas or heavy oils by exposure to heat and pressure in the earth's crust over hundreds and millions of years. Consuming all this would bring a change in huge change in the temperature causing it to raise enough to cause the sea levels to rise as high as 50 to 60 metres, submerging most coastal cities around the world.

Ricarda Winkelman, lead author of the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said, "This would not happen overnight, but the mind-boggling point is that our actions today are changing the face of planet Earth as we know it and will continue to do so for tens of thousands of years to come. If we want to avoid Antarctica to become ice-free, we need to keep coal, gas and oil in the ground."

Although this event is unlikely to happen in the near future, and would be gradual rather than drastic, the group of scientists said that it would take about 10,000 years for this to happen, with the rise on the sea level on the first 1000 years, as it would take about 500 years to burn through all the earth's fossil fuels which would emit carbon that would remain for thousands of years. "This kind of sea-level rise would be unprecedented in the history of civilization," Winkelman said.

Co-author Ken Caldeira cited that "If we don't stop dumping our waste carbon dioxide into the sky, land that is now home to more than a billion people will one day be under water." The worst that could happen yet is through the continuous burning of the fossil fuels and the steady rise in temperature could rise the sea level up to 30 centimeters per decade.

"Our findings show that if we do not want to melt Antarctica, we can't keep taking fossil fuel carbon out of the ground and just dumping it into the atmosphere as CO2 like we've been doing," Caldeira added.

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