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Sustainability

COP26: Melting iceberg brought to Glasgow to highlight perils of climate change to Arctic

COP26: Melting iceberg brought to Glasgow to highlight perils of climate change to Arctic

The iceberg was originally part of a large glacier in Greenland but had broken off as rising temperatures put increasing strain on polar environments. (Photo: Jack Board)

GLASGOW: A four tonne, slowly melting iceberg has been delivered by scientists to the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, to highlight the impact that global warming is having on the Arctic. 

The ice was originally part of a large glacier in Greenland but had broken off as rising temperatures put increasing strain on polar environments.

As the chunk of ice slowly melts outside the COP26 conference, climate scientists from Arctic Basecamp say it is symbolic of the race against time to tackle the global climate crisis. Arctic Basecamp is a team of experts and scientists who highlight the global risks from Arctic change.

Professor Gail Whiteman, the founder of Arctic Basecamp. (Photo: Jack Board)

“The reality check is that the Arctic is warming three times faster than the global average. It is the canary in the coalmine of climate change,” said Gail Whiteman, the founder of Arctic Basecamp and a professor of Sustainability at the University of Exeter Business School. 

“Regardless of the discussions that are actually happening, this iceberg is going to melt away and so are ones that are in the ocean. If they actually come up with good agreements and a significant bold step forward, perhaps we can start to save some of the others,” she told CNA on Friday (Nov 5).

The iceberg was transported by a refrigerated truck.

The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest on Earth. If it was to completely melt, sea levels around the world could rise by more than 7m. 

Prof Whiteman said the Arctic might seem like a distant concern, but the consequences of what happens there are already being felt across the globe.

“If you’re in Bangkok, or Jakarta, or Singapore you might think the Arctic is a faraway place. Maybe it’s good for a holiday of a lifetime or for shipping one day. But actually it is affecting extreme weather around the world and sea level rise. The Arctic is already in your backyard, “she said. 

“The storm surges that can do so much damage, that’s the Arctic calling. It’s there whether people know it or not. This iceberg is a visible reminder that what happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there.”

Coastal Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to rising sea levels and inundation from extreme events. 

The Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in August, outlined that sea levels around the region have risen faster than the global average and will continue around Asia, causing more coastal areas to flood.

Once-in-a-century flood events could be happening every year by 2100. Coastline erosion will be widespread, and under a moderate climate model, shoreline retreats could reach up to 300m along Southeast Asia’s sandy coastlines by the end of the century.

The iceberg was accompanied by glacial meltwater packaged as bottled water. (Photo: Jack Board)

The iceberg in Glasgow was accompanied by glacial meltwater packaged as bottled water, supposed to represent a “bottled warning” about heat rise driven by carbon emissions. 

Prof Whiteman said: “The evidence is absolutely compelling when we’re talking about the scale of the melt.” 

“With our 750ml bottles, the data shows on a decadal average that 17 million of those bottles are melting every second.” 

She added: “I don’t think it’s too late. The melt is going to continue but let’s slow it down and try to prevent it as much as possible. We have to halve emissions by 2050 and no new fossil fuel investment.  Without that we’re in trouble.”

Source: CNA/aw

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