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Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Polar Regions experiencing severe climate change

The Arctic and Antarctic are experiencing severe climate change. The Arctic ice cap is melting at an unprecedented rate due to human induced global warming, according to a new study conducted by 300 scientists and elders from native communities in the arctic, released 8 November. Over the last 30 years the ice cap has shrunk 15-20 per cent. In 2003 the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, the largest in the Arctic, broke into two pieces. With the build up of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, the trend is set to accelerate with forecasts that by the summer of 2070 there maybe no ice at all.

In Antarctica, while the interior of the continent is cooling, disappearin g sea ice and warmer temperatures around the Antarctic peninsula are causing an 80 percent drop in the numbers of Antarctic Krill. This is causing the food chain to crash affecting fish, penguins, sea birds, whales and other animals, as well as commercial Fisheries. The breakup of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002 has also released several glaciers, increasing their speed up to eight fold, and dumping their loads into the Weddell Sea contributing to rising sea level.

[Melbourne IMC: Climate Change Features | Perth IMC: Warming in Antarctica | WWF: Arctic Climate Impact Assessment | Climate Solutions]

With the Russian Government giving the green light to the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty is set to become international law in 2005. On October 22 the Russian Duma (lower House) ratified the Kyoto treaty. It will become international law 90 days after Russian President Vladimir Putin signs the treaty.

The USA and Australia are the only two industrialised countries refusing to ratify the treaty which places quotas on carbon dioxide production, a major contributor to global warming. See article on the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Bush Administration Shuns Latest Global Warming Studies according to an article on Madison IMC.

In the USA some cities are taking unilateral action on climate change by acting to reduce emissions. The Arcata city council's August 2, 2000 proclamation called for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and adherence to the 1997 Kyoto protocol in response to the growing threat of global climate change and its potential consequences.

In 2002, the mayors of nearly 40 of the world's coastal cities, led by the mayor of Venice, sent a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush urging him to reconsider his rejection of the Kyoto global warming pact.

According to a BBC report on 4 November, 2004, Sir Crispin Tickell, a former diplomat and government adviser, told an audience in Cambridge that urgent action is needed because climate change is more serious even than terrorism. He identified six main threats he believes are pushing the environment to the edge: population increase; land degradation and waste; water pollution and supply; climate change; energy production and use; and the destruction of biodiversity.

He told the audience "Nothing is more difficult than learning to think differently. The problem... goes to the roots of how we run our society. It relates to our value system."

"In addition to the traditional costs of research, process, production and so on, prices should reflect the costs involved in replacing a resource or substituting for it; and the costs of the associated environmental problems." he said. "There have been some 30 urban civilisations before our own. All eventually crashed."

He called for urgent action on climate change, saying: "Sucking up to car drivers or calling for new airports does not suggest that all politicians have yet understood what is at stake."

To bring the necessary change about, he said, "we need three things: leadership from above; public pressure from below; and - usually - some instructive disasters to jerk us out of our inertia."

These comments by Sir Crispin Tickell follow on from UK Chief Scientist Sir David King saying that "Kyoto is not enough" that global warming is a bigger threat than terrorism, and that Washington is failing to tackle the problem.

According to the Green Consumer Guide November 8, 2004, an advisor to President Bush, Myron Ebell, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), has debunked the notion of global warming, and attacked the UK's chief scientist as 'alarmist'.

He said the views of the UK's chief scientist, Sir David King, that 'US climate policy bigger threat to world than terrorism', was 'a ridiculous claim'. He also attacked the European Commission of targeting the American economy through efforts to develop an international climate change strategy.

Greenpeace UK organisation responded in a statement, "Global warming is a conspiracy against America", saying: "The world's best climate scientists agree the threat is real and growing. It is terrifying that this man is advising the White House on the gravest threat this planet faces. This kind of idiocy would be a mere distraction if it were not for the fact that Bush believes this nonsense. If Tony Blair really regards global warming as a huge threat, like he says he does, he needs to give the President a dose of straight talking the next time they meet."

Greenpeace also highlighted that Esso has provided funding of $1.5m since 1998 to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

* Image: Larsen B ice shelf breakup, Antarctic Peninsula, March 7, 2002 courtesy of NASA
* Original News Feature prepared by Takver incorporating editorial suggestions and improvements by others on Please visit original article for all links.

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