Fact Check By: Craig Jones, Newswise

Truthfulness: False


Greenland's ice sheet isn't shrinking any more rapidly today than it was 80 years ago.

Claim Publisher and Date: Steven Koonin on 2021-10-25

Steven Koonin, former Undersecretary for Science in the Obama Administration says that the media is exaggerating the climate crisis. In a recent video for Prager U, Koonin offered several statements that addressed flooding, hurricanes and the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. In this Fact Check, we focus on the claim that "Greenland's ice sheet isn't shrinking any more rapidly today than it was 80 years ago." Our analysis: this claim is false. Several studies have shown that GIS is melting at a more rapid rate, and models based on current temperature trends show that it'll get worse.

Research published in the journal Nature in October, 2020 states that the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) is losing mass at a high rate and warns that if greenhouse gas emissions do not decline, melt rates could quadruple and further add to sea level rise. The researchers collected data using ancient ice samples drilled out from the ice sheet. It used this data to reconstruct a history of Greenland spanning the past 12,000 years. They found that the highest rates of ice loss in 12,000 years were around 6 trillion tons of ice in a single century. That is about what we're losing today. As the climate continues to warm, those rates are expected to rise. It must be noted that an all-time record temperature of 19.8C in the region was measured last July. Models predict that even if we manage to keep global temperatures within about 2 degrees Celsius of their preindustrial levels (as agreed in the Paris climate agreement) Greenland will likely still lose more than 8 trillion tons of ice over the course of this century—a faster rate than at any other point in the last 12,000 years.

As reported by Politifact:

The latest report card for the Greenland ice sheet from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that in 2012 and 2019, the ice sheet saw its greatest losses since regular monitoring began in the 1950s. In 2012, it shed about 464 gigatons, and in 2019, it lost about 532 gigatons. According to NASA, 1 gigaton of ice would cover Central Park in New York and reach 1,119 feet high.

"Following a period of relative stability from the 1970s to early 1990s, the ice sheet began losing ice at an accelerating rate and has now experienced annual net ice loss every year since 1998," the report said.

According to a study published by NASA in December, 2019, "increasing rates of global warming have accelerated Greenland's ice mass loss from 25 billion tons per year in the 1990s to a current average of 234 billion tons per year. This means that Greenland's ice is melting on average seven times faster today than it was at the beginning of the study period."

In April 2020, Kate Abnett at Reuters reported that Greenland’s ice sheet shrank in 2019 by more than at any time since record-taking began...

Greenland’s ice sheet, the world’s second largest, recorded its biggest outright drop in what scientists call “surface mass” since record-keeping began in 1948, according to the study [The Cryosphere, 14, 1209–1223, 2020].

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