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In early July, a one-trillion ton chunk of the Larsen C Ice Shelf, an expanse of floating ice secured to Antarctica’s northern peninsula, broke free and floated away into south Atlantic waters.

Collapsing ice shelves and huge swaths of glaciers melting and running off into the ocean in Antarctica have contributed immensely to the rising sea levels affecting at-risk coastal cities. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science predicted that the list of cities that would be underwater by 2100—which includes Boston—exceeds 1,700.

Because the effects of climate change could go unnoticed for another 30 to 80 years, we are failing to grasp the urgency of the matter. We must act proactively rather than reactively. Although we can prevent further ocean warming, recovering thousands of underwater cities would be nearly impossible. World leaders must recognize climate change for the pressing issue it is. If we do not immediately implement extreme and aggressive political action, our earth will become uninhabitable—sooner rather than later.

According to oceanographer Helen Fricker, the break of a Delaware-sized glacier off the ice shelf is only the “canary in the coal mine”—meaning the real risk lies below the surface. This ice sheet, along with many others throughout Antarctica, acts as a buffer to the glacier it surrounds. Without it, the glaciers will begin to pour into the ocean, undoubtedly causing sea levels to rise even more significantly.

Ironically, a few days before Larsen C Ice Shelf’s disaster, prominent writer David Wallace-Wells published an article in New York Magazine, entitled “The Uninhabitable Earth.” In his manifesto, Wallace-Wells claims that we are living through the beginning of Earth’s sixth mass extinction. He cites an extinction from 252 million years ago, triggered when carbon and methane began entering the atmosphere, warming the planet and exterminating 97 percent of all life on Earth.

Our society today is emitting carbon at a rate ten times faster than that 252 million years ago. Dozens of plant and animal species are going extinct every day—a rate 1,000 to 10,000 times the norm.

The Earth will become so hot that it will cook any living thing to death. Food will be impossible to grow. Ancient plagues that reside in ice will be reintroduced to our planet as the polar ice caps melt. Air pollution will asphyxiate us. The economy will plummet. As they absorb carbon, oceans will acidify to the point where they cannot sustain any marine life. This is not a science-fiction, doomsday movie—it may be our reality.

In response to Wallace-Well’s article, scientist Robert Hunziker, a practiced writer in addressing hard hitting climate issues, agrees that without immediate and aggressive action, this is our planet’s fate. Hunziker claims that because the consequences are so extensive, the only way to tackle this is through committed leaders dedicated to this issue. We must sink all our money and resources toward carbon capture and storage, solar radiation management, renewable energy, and normalization of sustainable practices because this is not an issue where we can cut corners.

This May, Stephen Hawking declared that humans must settle another planet in order to survive. We could move onto and destroy another planet, without learning the consequences of our actions. We could give up, too stubborn to change our destructive ways. We could confirm our species’ merciless lack of respect toward a planet that we have tormented for centuries.

Or, we could take the hard route. We could save the continents and oceans that life has called home for millennia. We could save a home that has given us more than we will ever be able to return.