WHAT WOULD HAP­PEN IF… THE OCEAN FROZE OVER?

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1. OIL PRICES SKY­ROCKET

Half the world’s oil is trans­ported by sea. With the ship­ping lanes frozen over, the in­ter­na­tional oil mar­ket would see dras­ti­cally re­stricted sup­ply, just when oil is needed more than ever for heat­ing. This would trig­ger global eco­nomic col­lapse, lead­ing to mar­tial law in many coun­tries.

2. FOOD CHAIN COL­LAPSE

The layer of ice over the oceans would block out most of the light in the sur­face wa­ter. This would kill off marine al­gae, and the ef­fects would rip­ple up the food chain un­til the oceans were al­most ster­ile. Only deep-sea or­gan­isms liv­ing around hy­dro­ther­mal vents would sur­vive.

3. PLANTS DIE

Ice re­flects more sun­light than wa­ter, so the global cli­mate would cool dras­ti­cally, freez­ing the land as well. Plants would die from lack of wa­ter, re­sult­ing in less CO2 ab­sorp­tion, so CO2 from vol­ca­noes would slowly build up in the at­mos­phere and warm the planet back up – but it could take mil­lions of years to thaw the ice.

4. IT’S HAP­PENED BE­FORE

Ge­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence sug­gests the oceans may have frozen at least twice be­fore. The last time was around 650 mil­lion years ago. Enough sin­gle-celled or­gan­isms sur­vived that event to re­pop­u­late the Earth, but the fos­sil record isn’t good enough to tell if there were other, mul­ti­cel­lu­lar life forms that weren’t so lucky.

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