Crying over the Cryosphere

Ice melting

The cryosphere is under attack! Most of us rarely come into contact with the cryosphere, but it is a critical part of our climate system. The term refers to the frozen parts of our planet – the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the icebergs that break off and drift in the oceans, the glaciers on our high mountain ranges, our winter snow, the ice on lakes and the polar oceans, and the frozen ground in much of the Arctic landscape called permafrost.

The cryosphere is shrinking. Both the arctic and Antarctic are now melting.  Snow cover is reducing, glaciers and ice sheets are melting and permafrost. A recent UN report highlights that melting is accelerating, with potentially disastrous consequences for humanity and marine and high mountain ecosystems.

At the moment, we’re on track to lose more than half of all the permafrost by the end of the century. Thousands of roads and buildings sit on this frozen soil – and their foundations are slowly transitioning to mud. Permafrost also stores almost twice the amount of carbon as is present in the atmosphere. While increased plant growth may be able to offset some of the release of carbon from newly thawed soils, much will be released to the atmosphere, significantly accelerating the pace of global heating.

Glaciers are also melting. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, smaller glaciers will shrink by more than 80 percent by the end of the century. Icelandic glaciers are rapidly retreating as are glaciers around the world.

The livestock industry plays a big part in causing all this. A 2006 UN report stated that raising meat causes more global warming than all the cars, planes, trains, buses, boats and ships in the world all put together. A study by two scientists at the World Bank showed that raising meat causes 51% of greenhouse gas emissions.

So there is something you can do personally to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions, if you haven’t already.  By adopting a healthy vegan diet, you will be making a powerful move to save the arctic, Antarctic, and glaciers throughout the world.