Ice melting at a 'dramatic' rate

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A new report coordinated by the Norwegian Polar Institute indicates that the world’s ice is melting even faster than expected, meaning that the seas can rise by as much as two meters during this century alone. That would have dramatic consequences for island nations and coastlines around the planet, claims Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, although the report has met criticism.

Støre is in Copenhagen this week at the UN’s climate conference, where negotiators are trying to hammer out an agreement on measures to help reverse climate change.

Støre and his government colleague Erik Solheim, minister for the environment and foreign aid, hope the new report called “Melting snow and ice – a call for action,” will add to the pressure on the negotiators and force some concrete progress.

They called the report’s conclusions “dramatic,” with Støre telling Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday morning that “the extreme alternatives from a few years ago are now the normal alternatives.”

Støre was due to present the new findings along with Al Gore, the former US vice president who jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with the UN Climate Panel for their efforts to fight climate change.Newspaper Aftenposten reported Monday that Støre and Gore wanted to assemble the most up-to-date knowledge of melting ice when they met in Tromsø last spring. The Norwegian Polar Institute, Norway’s central institution for research, environmental monitoring and mapping of polar regions, coordinated the effort with leading international researchers.

According to Aftenposten , they found that snow and ice are melting much faster than seasonal variations would normally allow. There’s been a net reduction of ice and snow in the Arctic, Greenland, the Himalayas, glaciers around the world and now also in Antarctica, where the ice had been more stable than in the north.

Glaciers are melting most quickly in the European Alps, Patagonia in South America, and in the northwestern areas of North America. The permafrost is also warming up by as much as 2 degrees, releasing methane and CO2 into the atmosphere which will also trigger more ice melting.

In 2007, the UN Climate Panel thought the world’s sea level could rise by more than a half-meter but now researchers predict 1.4 -2 meters in this century alone.

“We’d been hearing individual stories about what’s happening but now it’s been documented,” Støre told Aftenposten . He said former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who led the UN’s first major effort to tackle climate change, will present the new report to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “and I will personally send it to all of my 192 foreign minister colleagues in the world.”

Critics

The report has been criticized since its release. One top ice researcher, Wieslav Maslowski, told The New York Times that his latest findings indicate that 80 percent of the Arctic Ocean’s ice can be gone in six years, but that there will still be summer ice in 2020.

“It’s not necessary to exaggerate the climate change in the Arctic,” Jim Overland of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said, while Professor Ola M Johannessen of the Nansen Center claimed there were errors in the report from Støre and Gore.

Johannessen noted, for example, that it referred to a 40 percent reduction of ocean ice since 1979, while he said the correct reduction is 4.1 percent per decade, or 12.3 percent. He claimed the report was based on too few scientific works.