Experts have long warned of the devastating consequences of unrestrained burning of fossil fuels, but findings of a new study should get people and governments worldwide to think about the impacts of carbon emission.

In a new study published in the journal Science Advances on Sept. 11, researchers reported that all of Antarctica's ice sheet would melt once the world burns up all of its fossil fuel reserves.

Burning fossil fuels such as such as oil, coal and gas releases carbon dioxide, heat-trapping greenhouse gas that increases the overall temperatures on Earth. Global warming melts the ice into the ocean which leads to the rising of sea levels worldwide.

The researchers said that the melting of the ice sheet could raise sea levels by 50 to 60 meters which could result in many metropolises around the world getting submerged under the sea.

Because many of the worlds' major cities are at or near sea level, the rising of the sea level could drown many highly populated areas, where over a billion people currently live.

A sea level rise of 60 meters would put most of Florida, Louisiana, Texas and the entire East Coast of the U.S. under water. Major cities worldwide that would be lost include New York, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, Washington, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Paris, London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Venice, Beijing, Sydney, Shanghai, Rome and Tokyo.

 "We show in simulations using the Parallel Ice Sheet Model that burning the currently attainable fossil fuel resources is sufficient to eliminate the ice sheet," wrote study researcher Ricarda Winkelmann from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, and colleagues in their study. "With cumulative fossil fuel emissions of 10,000 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC), Antarctica is projected to become almost ice-free with an average contribution to sea-level rise exceeding 3 meters per century during the first millennium."

The researchers said that while this would not happen overnight as it would likely take thousands of years before Antarctica would become ice-free, humanity's present-day actions could change the face of the planet.

The researchers said that if humans use more and more fossil energy, they will increase the risks of triggering changes that could no longer be stopped nor reversed in the future.

"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," Winkelmann said.

Photo: Kenny Louie | Flickr

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