Retreating Ice Sheets
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), part of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), ended its meetings in Valencia, Spain yesterday. The key message coming out from the U.N. Panel scientists and from the Secretary General of the U.N. Ban Ki Moon was that the Earth is in a serious crisis, and that we need to act soon to prevent a catastrophe.
Secretary General Ban Ki Moon wrote an excellent summary of the crisis in the International Herald Tribune Editorial section this weekend and in it the key message was that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet representing one fifth of the Antarctic continent is at risk of breaking off and floating north and melting, which would raise worldwide sea levels by six metres.
The greatest concern is that this event is not a possibility, but instead something that could happen within many people's lifetimes if urgent action isn't taken. When a large ice sheet like this breaks off and melts, there will probably be in addition to the rising sea levels, enough weather disasters to make Hurricane Katrina look like a summer shower. Therefore, the conclusion is that the situation is grave for all and humanity needs to take urgent steps to correct the problem.
The issue that needs to be tackled when the U.N delegates meet in Bali at the start of December is to outline what needs to be done to correct the global problem. The only solution appears, from scientific analysis, to be that we need to head towards zero emissions in everything we do. The only objective goals that will save humanity from disaster will be to adopt radical targets of near 80% reduction in global CO2 emissions within ten years, the worldwide banning of CFC's (chlorofluorocarbons) that destroy ozone, and undertake massive re-planting of vegetation in all of the global areas where it has been destroyed so that there is a capacity to convert C02 to oxygen. The other critical element is that fresh water resources throughout the globe are conserved.
These seem like radical targets, but any scientist will confirm that the current planned target reductions in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol were good but not enough to stop the rise in global CO2 emissions. Humanity will need to adopt measures that reduce global CO2 levels in the upper atmosphere, and not just slow their rise. A target of 80% reduction in ten years of CO2 emissions is really what is required if we are to assure our future on this planet. Its a very difficult target but not impossible, and unfortunately nothing short of this will work.