10 Things That Would Happen If the World's Ice Melted
It'll take a lot more than floaties and a decent pair of goggles to survive if all the world's ice melted.
A real life waterworld would be even worse than the movie. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the "10 Things That Would Happen If the World’s Ice Caps Melted."
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most dramatic consequences of the polar ice caps and glaciers suddenly melting. Of course, thanks to climate change, the ice caps really are melting, but at a gradual rate; we’ll be considering a hypothetical, nightmare scenario in which they completely melted overnight.
There's gotta be a silver lining in all the devastation, right? As sea levels surged, countries around the world would LOSE livable area... while Antarctica emerged from its icy covering and became an archipelago. While still arid and challenging, it might eventually become habitable for humans—at least, compared to its harsh, extreme current environment. Future humans might well look to colonize the region—even if only to mine and drill for resources. Then again, it could also make a pretty exciting getaway. Who wouldn’t want to own a cottage in Antarctica?
With all our ice melted, sea levels would rise an estimated 216 feet. Australia would be one of the hardest places hit, given that around 80 percent of its population lives on or near the coastline. As a consolation, the dry and dusty central regions of this vast and sunburnt country would gain a massive, inland sea, reminiscent of the landlocked ocean that existed thereabouts millions of years ago. Of course, that wouldn’t exactly please the towns and wildlife left underwater. The return of all this water would be a blast from the past, but at a devastating cost.
#8: Atlantic Inlets in South America
The sea would also make significant incursions into South America. Brazil would have to kiss Rio’s beaches goodbye, as much of the South American coastline would wash away. Lonely Cristo Redentor would be left looking out over a new archipelago. Worse, both the Amazon and Paraguay Basins would become sprawling inlets of the Atlantic Ocean—a devastating blow for Earth’s biodiversity, and a fatal one for Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires. Both the “Paris of the South” and Uruguay’s Montevideo would be drowned as the sea rushed in and continued inland into Paraguay.
#7: Droughts in Africa
Africa doesn't exactly need more sand. But that’s what it might get if the world’s ice melted. In terms of rising water levels, most African countries would be a little less affected, but there’d be an even bigger problem. Ironically, more water in the world would lead to, well, LESS, in some areas. Without the ice caps to reflect sunlight, the average global temperature would rise, worsening the severity of droughts, especially in the sensitive Sahel and Horn of Africa. That isn’t to say that the sea wouldn’t also claim its own victims. Most of Senegal would be washed away, and Egypt’s pyramids would become islands.
Increased temperatures and sea levels would wreak havoc on the world’s weather systems. All that freshwater would disrupt ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream, which could trigger cold snaps and severe storms across Europe. The loss of ice in the Arctic could also worsen winters in the US. The changes would scramble precipitation patterns worldwide, meaning that some arid regions would see heavy rainfall, and vice versa. Plus, with water levels higher, and more of it, storm surges would be more powerful, flooding coastal areas that escaped the initial devastation.
As the sea rushed in, the world’s largest cities would become real-life Atlantises. In the US alone, cities such as San Diego, Seattle, New York, Boston, and Miami would be completely submerged. In fact, the entire state of Florida would be wiped clean off the map, as would densely populated cities like Shanghai, Mumbai, and Bangkok. Europe would lose Istanbul, Venice, Barcelona, London, and Copenhagen, to name just a few. For the most part, only inland national capitals, such as Moscow, New Delhi, and Canberra, would survive the deluge.
#4: The Disappearance of Whole Countries
We’d also see whole countries swallowed by the sea. Small island nations are especially vulnerable to rises in sea levels. The Maldives, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Bahamas would be completely gone. Much larger countries would disappear, too. Low-lying Bangladesh would become part of the Bay of Bengal, and the windmills in the Netherlands would spin with the currents on the ocean floor. Some parts of Denmark would still peek above the waves, especially in the Jutland Peninsula which would become an island, but most of the country would vanish.
#3: A Worldwide Refugee Crisis
As cities and countries drowned, never-before-seen numbers of refugees would be forced to seek food and shelter elsewhere. No government on Earth would boast the immediate resources, or infrastructure, to handle such a massive influx of people. Especially since even the countries and cities that the sea wouldn’t claim would be dealing with their own wide-ranging environmental, social, and political problems. And so, anarchy would rule—at least at first—with millions of people going it alone, desperately striving to survive. The unprecedented upheaval could completely transform national identities, borders, customs, and histories.
With humanity in disarray, and agriculture and manufacturing disrupted, the global economy would quickly collapse, and war would likely ensue as nations turned on each other in an effort to secure what was left of the world’s resources. And while this may sound like the lead up to another Mad Max movie, the reality might be less "Charlize Theron kicking ass" and more "you just got drafted." In many places, the slide into anarchy would be sudden, as governments crumbled, borders were withdrawn, and people began to battle over what remained.
Of course, we humans aren’t the only ones who’d be in severe trouble were the world’s ice to melt. Many earthly animals would straight-up go extinct, and that, perhaps surprisingly, includes a variety of marine species. Changes in currents, and decreased salinity levels, would lay waste to established habitats. Some species might be able to adapt, or migrate to more suitable areas, but many would simply die out. It would be a global, cataclysmic mass extinction event, and the world would never be the same. Thankfully, of course, the idea of the world’s ice melting in any substantial way is just a fun, consequence-free and hypothetical scenario… Not, like, you know, an actual eventuality or anything... Oh, wait...