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This App Shows You What Life Will Be Like When The World’s Ice Melts

This is daunting to contemplate, but it’s far off, and, from where we sit, it remains theoretical. But a new app, created by the New York-based artist Justin Guariglia, brings this eventuality firmly into the present day. Called After Ice, the app detects your location and allows you to visualize the effects of climate change through augmented reality by overlaying an image of yourself in your current environment with water-level projections.

When I open After Ice in New York and hold my phone up to my face, I see a gentle wave of water rolling somewhere right over my head. Occasionally, a fish swims past. The app tells me that at 76% of total melt, sea level will be at 176 feet above current levels in my neighborhood. Even though scientists estimate that the 5 million cubic miles of ice on Earth will likely take 5,000 years to melt, it’s been happening, slowly, for years. The app takes the same approach to sea level rise predictions for the year 2080–when many young people will still be alive. Though the app works everywhere in the world, the last demonstration shows the Wall Street Bull in 2080, so even those whose locations would be above sea level in that year could get a sense of the effects of the projected 7-foot rise.

“We’re so disconnected from this concept, but when you experience it in augmented reality through an app, or even just walk down to the waterfront and recognize that that water comes from ice melting in Greenland, it becomes real.” [Photo: Justin Guariglia]

In 2015, Guariglia began joining NASA scientists on the polar survey flights conducted as part of Operation IceBridge, which images the region to better understand how it is affected by the global climate system. As a trans-disciplinary artist who frequently collaborates with scientists and philosophers to inform his work, Guariglia “went out there to be able to get access to this thing that I knew nothing about, which is the ice sheet,” he tells Fast Company. Through his…

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