Fuelling the Melt of the Arctic?
The Arctic made its way into the headlines again at the end of last week, when the five Arctic coastal nations met in Greenland to discuss sovereignty over the Arctic seabed.
Denmark, Norway, Russia, Canada and the United States are the countries concerned. Wouldn’t it be great if they were negotiating on who could do the most to protect this unique and fragile area? Of course what they are actually concerned about is who will have access to natural resources – for instance the right to drill for oil once the seabed becomes more easily accessible because global warming is melting the ice.
(The airport at Alaska’s oil centre, Prudhoe Bay).
The environmental groups were not invited to the meeting. As you might expect, most of them are concerned about the rush to exploit the Arctic further as soon as possible. One suggestion is to have a treaty similar to that regulating the Antarctic, which bans military activity and mineral mining, but this was rejected by the “Arctic 5”. Greenpeace Nordic campaigner Lindsay Keenan put the bizarre situation in a nutshell when he told Reuters “they are going to use the law of the sea to carve up the raw materials, but they are ignoring the law of common sense. These are the same fossil fuels that are driving climate change in the first place”. Good point Mr. Keenan. Greenpeace points out that the world already has four times more fossil fuel reserves than it can afford to burn.
DateJune 4, 2008 | 11:08 am
Alaska baking faster?
This was us in Barrow just two weeks ago.
This morning, this email reached me from George Divoky, our ornithologist friend, observing climate change as part of his work monitoring a black guillemot colony on the Arctic’s Cooper Island:
“Was able to follow your travels via the B&J website and your blog and it looked like you were able to see some impressive examples of climate change in Alaska.
I was impressed with both the quality of climate change ambassadors and the media traveling with them. I tend to be skeptical of much of what is said and done to bring climate change issues to the public but found this exercise to be a good one and was glad I could become involved.
(…) I head off to Alaska in a week and Cooper Island about a week after that. After the late and snowy spring (which you know about first hand) things have gotten very hot there (5 C as I write this) and the snow all melted in the past two days.
George J. Divoky
Friends of Cooper Island
DateMay 26, 2008 | 8:02 am
Lions, Giraffes and Hippos on Ice ?
So what are these African animals (I took the pictures in Tanzania) doing on the Ice Blog? Of course it’s all about biodiversity.
The Arctic is particularly sensitive to climate change and acts as a kind of early warning system. At the same time, ice melting up there will have consequences for the whole planet. I’ve gone on a lot about how melting sea ice affects the flora and fauna in Arctic regions. There’s also been a mention of how melting glaciers change the temperature, salinity and light conditions of the ocean. I’m currently working on a radio feature on my trip out onto the sea ice up in the Arctic with the “ambassadors” from the Climate Change College and scientist Chris Petrich. (Listen out for that in Living Planet). One of the main subjects of his research is the “albedo effect”. That is all about how the whiteness of ice and snow reflects solar radiation back up off the earth’s surface. When the snow cover decreases, the “melt ponds” are a much darker cover, and that absorbs warmth – exacerbating the overall warming effect. So, polar areas have a huge importance for the planet as a whole. Then there is the methane (around 23 times more powerful than c02 as a climate gas) being released from the huge areas of melting permafrost.
All this effects not only the area where it happens, but the whole planet. And of course, the sea level is rising, which will have disastrous effects for all the low-lying areas of the globe.
All our species of plants and animals are dependent on particular habitats and living conditions – from polar bears to giraffes, hippos, kangaroos or cuckoos. (Listen to Alison Hawkes on the plight of the “bird of the year” in the Black Forest. Will cuckoos exist soon only in those quaint – or exasperating – clocks?)
The Cuckoo Story
Last night the IUCN and UNEP staged an event here in Bonn to mark Biodiversity Day.
More about the IUCN
During it, I met Pavan Sukhdev,who’s heading the TEEB project,that is a study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. I felt very privileged to have the chance to talk to the man who’s in charge of what some people say could do for biodiversity what Nicholas Stern’s report did for climate change. The idea is to put a price on nature and make it clear, in economic terms, what it is worth to protect our biodiversity. The first part of the report will be presented in Bonn next week, but he did give me an idea of the scale of things. You can read the interview here:
Pavan Sukhdev on putting a price on nature
DateMay 23, 2008 | 8:43 am
TagsAfrica, Arctic, Biodiversity, Climate, Climate Change College, CO2, economics, feedback loops, IUCN, Living Planet, methane, permafrost, sea ice, Sea level, TEEB, UNEP, wildlife
A good climate for saving biodiversity?
Cara and Marie Lauré are 2 of the Climate College ambassadors committed to protecting the environment. They would love the atmosphere here in Bonn at the moment.
Bonn is “abuzz” with environmental experts and activists at the moment. Today was the start of “COP 9”, the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
This is the nature protection event of the year. “One Nature. One World. Our Future” – that’s the motto.
They’re expecting around 7,000 people from around the world. The event goes over 2 weeks. Next week, the ministers and heads-of-state will arrive for the “high-level” segment. You might ask yourself whether involving that many people in a conference is really good for the environment. Of course that also means me as one of the 500 (!) journalists accredited for the event. My ecological footprint isn’t deep for this one, as the conference is literally 2 tram stops away from our headquarters here at DW. I’m not sure whether the numbers don’t get inflated in general though. But I do think we need to do something, and if that means getting all these people around the table – then, so be it.
The German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel opened the conference, with Ahmed Djoghlaf, who’s the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. They both stressed the link between biodiversity and climate, which is why Bonn is a great city to have it, as it’s home to the UNFCCC (Yes, there really are 3 “C”s), the Climate Secretariat.
Homepage for the UN climate experts
There is a live webcast of the conference, if you’re in to that sort of thing.(You’ll find it under the link above).
I went along today with my colleague Nina Haase. We’ll be reporting on what’s happening on Living Planet and other programmes over the next 2 weeks.
On the way there, I (almost literally) ran into a Greenpeace kids’ demo. They were singing their own German version of “Frère Jacques” adressed to the German Environment Minister. It goes like this:
“Sigmar Gabriel, Sigmar Gabriel, are you sleeping?
Can’t you hear the polar bears, Can’t you hear the polar bears: “Save the Climate”.
It’s great to see young school kids, with their faces painted and hand-made banners with tigers and polar bears on them being active for the environment.
You can listen to them singing below.
Thanks to teachers like Isobel who have responded to this blog. Isobel wants to use it to teach her pupils about climate change and related issues. She finds they show a lot of interest in these issues. More power to you Isobel and everyone reading this who’s working to get the next generation involved in protecting biodiversity, combatting climate change, and making sure they have a future.
DateMay 19, 2008 | 2:44 pm
TagsAlaska, Biodiversity, Climate Change College, Germany, Greenpeace, Living Planet, Media, polar bears, UN talks, Youth
Cool Forecasts – a Hot Topic?
They have no doubt that the planet is warming: Arctic explorers Marc Cornelissen,head of the Climate Change College, and archaeologist Anne Jensen, who rescues historic burial sites from being washed into the sea as a result of coastal erosion. (The sea ice is a natural protection barrier. As it diminishes, the land is left more vulnerable to the elements). I took the photo at Point Barrow, the northernmost point in the USA and well into the Arctic Circle.
People here in Germany are talking about a new study published in the journal Nature last week suggesting a possible lull in man-made global warming. (More in the “eco-news” bulletin which Nina Haase wrote for this week’s Living Planet programme):
Scientists and politicians are worried that this might make people think they don’t have to rush to take action after all. The study doesn’t dispute the human role in global warming, but it predicts a cooling down from recent average temperatures between now and 2015, as a result of a natural and temporary shift in ocean currents. Now, experts on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are worried that people might become relaxed again about reducing emissions. There’s no doubt about the fact that people are more likely to take action if they see clear evidence of climate change and are worried about droughts and floods.
(Ines, I thought of you this morning when I read in the paper that Barcelona is relying on tankers bringing in drinking water.)
I was on a panel at an event here in Bonn today where some of the journalists – discussing the role of the media in reporting on climate change – said doubt had been cast on the methods used in the “cooling” report anyway.
In the hope that it might convince some more undecided readers of this blog (I realize of course I could be preaching to the converted with this), I’d suggest a listen to George Divoky, a dedicated ornithologist working on Cooper Island, in the Beaufort Sea north of the Arctic town of Barrow. George has been observing guillemots for 33 years and has quite clearly seen the evidence of climate change. The interview is attached for your listening pleasure. It’s also featured in our Living Planet programme this week.
This shows climate ambassador Cara, talking to a young eskimo,Kayan, who told us he is very concerned about the warming climate and the changes to the sea ice on which the eskimo culture depends so much. Cara is also on this week’s Living Planet programme.
Trying to look at ancient burial sites at Point Barrow. This shows typical everyday working conditions for scientists and other experts trying to keep track of coastal erosion and the ancient sites in danger of disappearin there.
DateMay 14, 2008 | 4:13 pm
TagsAlaska, archaeology, Arctic, Barrow, birds, Climate Change College, Cooper Island, erosian, indigenous, Inupiat, IPCC, Living Planet, Oceans, science, sea ice, USA, Warming