Antarctica and Global Warming: Probability or Certainty? - Halil Öztürk


Is it really correct to think of a relationship between human activities, Antarctica, and global warming? To answer this question shall be the main topic of this paper but to comprehend the answer better, there will be a quick background information introduction:


Antarctica is, as you know, a unique continent due to its being on the average coldest region on earth. Unfortunately, this uniquely beautiful land is referred to for global warming, and the word "Antarctica" is often accompanied by the word "melting," and if a person likes to surf on the Internet, or watch the TV, maybe s/he sees some news upon Antarctica’s being melting on a daily basis. To exemplify, on the BBC website, except daily news on global warming, there is a part named "Future Planet" for a sustainable world, which includes writings about sustainability closely related to global warming and some of which includes the “problem of Antarctica." At this point, before continuing, I want to introduce a United Nations (UN) body, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC provides regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPPC attempts to reach a consensus among hundreds of scientists, diplomats, and politicians, which is seen as impossible. Suppose, we accept the following statement that one cannot talk about international affairs without knowing the letters UN. In that case, we may accept the following statement that s/he neither can talk about climate change without knowing IPPC.

To continue, generally, we say, indeed are said, that human is responsible for melting the ice in Antarctica, which will bring us just trouble such as shortage in clean water in the future, flooding, and so forth. Nevertheless, is this claim is perfectly correct? Answering this question shall be the main focus of this paper, where I will only give some information without personal calculations, ideas, etc.

Antarctica is melting. The statement we will investigate is simply that “human makes Antarctica be melting.” As investigating, we will point out two different aspects.

Firstly, in 2007, IPPC Fourth Assessment Report claims that it is very likely that global climate change of the past fifty years due mostly to human activities; very likely is equivalent to more than 90% here as said in the report. With an elementary probability knowledge, it means that there is a 10% chance to claim we cannot blame humans for global warming. Also, the Figure 1 reflect some bumpy fluctuations in temperature anomaly year by year; what caused such fluctuations, we cannot know because if we use relative frequency of probability, we know that if you flip a fair coin 100 times, you do not always see a 50 head 50 tail case. Therefore, the source of these fluctuations may be rooted in some natural events instead of human activities.

Figure 1: Global Warming. The Earth’s average temperature from 2000 to 2020


Source: NASA


Secondly, according to NASA, between 2002 and 2020, Antarctica shed an averagely 149 billion metric tons of ice per year, which contributes to global sea levels, which appears the effect of global warming. Nonetheless, maybe the appearance does not reflect reality. IPCC scientists, in 2000, estimated the relationship between total ice change and global warming. Startlingly, without exception, all the scientists predicted that global warming would increase the ice of Antarctica. The reason why this was the result is actually simple: The warmer weather, the more evaporation of water, which means added snow and expectation for growth in Antarctic ice mass; also, it ought to be noted that with a 1 or 2 Celsius warming, Antarctica remains very cold. On the other hand, we have hitherto seen that Antarctica is melting. That is a contradiction, and naturally, this conclusion does not disprove global warming. Instead, we can understand that our warming understanding is not enough to say something exact about melting in Antarctica. Ergo, when we hear some news on Antarctica’s being melting and its relation with global warming, we can understand that it could be, not necessarily, it is.


In conclusion, global warming is an issue debated literally everywhere, every day by everyone. The statement “Antarctica is melting” makes this issue more frightening for some of us. However, interestingly, there is no such perfect information relating the problem of Antarctica with global warming as we thought. Instead, there is a probability.