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Melting ice and rising waters

Focus COP15

Melting ice and rising waters

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There’s a chilling reminder in central Copenhagen of what’s at stake at the COP15 climate change summit.

An exhibition called “100 Places” displays photographs that could one day become mementos of what has been lost to global warming.

Polar explorer Pen Hadow describes one such example:

“The floating sea ice in the region of the North Pole on top of the Arctic Ocean, as illustrated here, is one of our planet’s defining surface features as seen from deep space.

“I have been working there for the last 20 years or so and we conducted a survey in association with the University of Cambridge this spring to enable best informed policy here in Copenhagen at COP15.

“And we discovered that this is no longer going to be a year-round feature on the top of our planet in just ten years from now,” he warns.

Global warming and melting ice are triggering a thermal expansion of water. Some meteorologists predict a sea level rise of between 20 and 80 centimetres this century alone.

Low lying island nations face a real and frightening threat from climate change and negotiations back at the climate summit will ultimately impact their survival.

A huge globe hangs in the COP15 main hall. Tessie Lambourne is here negotiating the future of her homeland, the Pacific Kiribati islands. They don’t appear on the hanging globe – a chilling projection for the future, she fears, and one her nation of 100,000 people can’t bear to face.

For Tessie and her compatriots, the need to act is urgent and immediate:

“There is a queue of casualties to climate change, and countries like mine, we are on the front line.

“Imagine an island which is a very narrow thin strip of land, surrounded by water on each side. The storm surges that we get are increasingly becoming more frequent and severe, and the waves are now breaking into our homes, destroying our food crops, and our major public infrastructure.

“This is an emotional issue for our people. People back home, they have not accepted the possibility of leaving their home land and who would.”

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