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The rate of ice melt over the last two decades was comparable to the highest points in recent geologic history—and it’s still speeding up.

Greenland is on track to lose more ice this century than it has at any other point in the Holocene, the 12,000-year period in which human civilization has flourished, an alarming new study has found.

The study, published today in the journal Nature, offers the latest evidence that Earth’s northernmost ice sheet, which contains enough frozen water to raise global sea levels by 24 feet, has entered a period of rapid decline and may melt away entirely if humanity continues burning fossil fuels at current levels. The research also puts to rest the notion that Greenland’s recent deterioration might be part of a natural cycle, by showing just how fast the current meltdown is compared with the ups and downs of the geologic past.

“We have confidence now that this century is going to be unique in the context of natural variability of the last 12,000 years,” says lead study author Jason Briner, a glaciologist at the University at Buffalo.

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