National Geographic has created a fascinating visual representation of this thought experiment and provided an analysis of how each continent would be affected by such a catastrophic change.
First off, this is not a blanket statement about climate change. As National Geographic notes, even scientists tracking the melting of ice around the world say it would take some 5,000 years for all the world’s ice to melt.
Still, it’s interesting to look at exactly what would happen if this scenario was taken to its most extreme conclusion.
As a result of the drastic rise in sea levels, the average temperature around the Earth would rise from 58 degrees to 80 degrees.
In North America, the entire Atlantic seaboard would vanish beneath the waves, including Florida and the Gulf Coast. Much of California would be underwater. Millions of Americans would be permanently dislocated from their homes to say nothing of the potentially insurmountable impact on natural wildlife.
Africa would technically be largely untouched but much of its would become inhabitable because of the increased temperature. In Egypt, Alexandria and Cairo would be “swamped” by flooding waters from the Mediterranean.
Many of Europe’s greatest landmarks would be destroyed: London would disappear, Venice, gone. The Netherlands and most of Denmark would also be entirely underwater.
In Asia, National Geographic says land currently inhabited by 600 million Chinese would be underwater, as would all of Bangladesh and coastal India.
And Antarctica? Virtually unrecognizable. After all, that’s where the vast majority of the Earth’s ice resides today.
(Photo credit: Jason Treat, Matthew Twombly, Web Barr, Maggie Smith, NGM Staff; Art: Kees Veenenbos. Sources: Philippe Huybrechts, Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Richard S. Williams Jr., Woods Hole Research Center; James C. Zachos, University of California Santa Cruz; USGS, NOAA, ETOPO1 Bedrock; 1 Arc-Minute Global Relief Model)