Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Climate negotiators to meet in Greenland

Meltwater canyon carved in Greenland glacier: photo by Sarah Das, Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionDanish Climate Minster Connie Hedegaard, who is committed to meaningful climate action, just invited the major countries' environment ministers and representatives of the world's biggest polluters to meet her in Greenland before the December summit in Copenhagen. She hopes it will "change points of view and go further in its conclusions than those in other forums" -- such as polluter-state proposals at Poznan, Bonn, Beijing, Tokyo, Washington and current G8 talks in Italy, many of which will actually increase global warming.

Using "melting Greenland" to emphasize the urgency is a good idea, says Geoffrey Lean in Grist 30 Jun 09. He was a participant in Orthodox Patriarch Bartholemew's symposium there -- see our previous post. Lean recalls, "You can hear the howling of the idle dogs... all over Ilulissat," but even louder is the sound of pieces breaking off the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier, like "gunshots" or "thunder". The glacier is melting, racing towards the sea at 10 miles a year, 5 times faster than a decade ago. Scientists were shocked when it leaped ahead 3 miles in 90 minutes.

Why? Because meltwater is carving in great waterfalls down to the bedrock, creating "a lake 500 meters deep under the glacier, lifting the ice" and making a water-slide to the sea. Says Lean, "Much the same is happening all around Greenland, causing its ice-cap to melt far faster than... expected, contributing to the inevitable rising of the world’s seas."

See also a recent report by U of Colorado scientist Konrad Steffen, and jokulhlaups (flash floods) reported in Alaska and Greenland. Inuit leader Sheila Watt-Cloutier describes its effect on native people's lives.

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