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What would the Earth look like if all the ice melted? The answer is terrifying.

This terrifying video shows an accurate depiction of what Earth would look like if the sea level rose by 216 feet when all the ice on the planet melts.

What would the Earth look like if all the ice melted? The answer is terrifying.
Cover Image Source: YouTube/Science Insider

Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 25, 2022. It has since been updated. 

Even as activists continue to face opposition—and even disdain—from climate deniers for attempting to raise awareness about the danger our planet is in, mounting scientific data shows that the world's ice is melting at a rapid pace. According to a study published earlier in 2021, global ice loss has increased rapidly over the past two decades, soaring from about 760 billion tons per year in the 1990s to more than 1.2 trillion tons per year in the 2010s. Meanwhile, a second, NASA-backed study on the Greenland ice sheet found that at least 74 major glaciers that terminate in deep, warming ocean waters are being severely undercut and weakened.


Yet, the extent of this effect and its implications for rising sea levels are still being underestimated by the global scientific community. "It's like cutting the feet off the glacier rather than melting the whole body," Eric Rignot, a study co-author and a glacier researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California at Irvine, told The Washington Post. "You melt the feet and the body falls down, as opposed to melting the whole body. I think this is an example that the current projections are conservative. As we peer below we realize these feedbacks are kicking in faster than we thought."


While the first study finds that the current ice losses, which are on pace with the worst scenarios for sea-level rise put out by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the NASA-backed study suggests that the IPCC could be underestimating future sea-level rise. Meanwhile, a few years ago, National Geographic took it upon itself to visualize the extreme case scenario where all the ice on Earth is melted. Teaming up with scientists and universities around the world, it produced an accurate depiction of what Earth would look like if the sea level rose by 216 feet—the equivalent of melting all the water currently locked away in ice from continents (mountain snowpack, glaciers, ice sheets, etc.) and the ice on oceans and lakes.


A terrifying video from Business Insider, based on National Geographic's estimation, paints a dark picture of the possible future of our planet. The video reveals that numerous European cities, such as Brussels and Venice, would be submerged if this dire scenario unfolds. Meanwhile, in Africa and the Middle East, Dakar, Accra, and Jeddah would suffer a similar fate. Millions of people in Asian cities like Mumbai, Beijing, and Tokyo would be uprooted from their homes by the rising sea level and be forced to move inland.

In South America, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires would go underwater. As for the United States, the world would watch as places like Houston, San Francisco, New York City, and the entire state of Florida slowly disappear into the sea. Despite their horror, these visuals underscore a critical message: our ongoing reliance on fossil fuels and carbon emissions is inexorably warming our planet. A study published in Science Advances by researchers in the U.S., U.K., and Germany warns that we have enough fossil fuel resources at our disposal to completely melt the Antarctic ice sheet.


"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," said the lead author of the study Ricarda Winkelmann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. "If we want to avoid Antarctica to become ice-free, we need to keep coal, gas, and oil in the ground."

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