Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Urgent Issue - unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice caps
I hope by this posting to encourage interest in a subject I believe to be of enormous importance, which I have today proposed for selection as an Urgent Issue for debate at the Lib Dems' Federal Conference in Bournemouth. Satellite images taken in the last couple of weeks show that melting Arctic ice has opened the North-west and North-east passages, evidencing that polar ice may have entered what one eminent environmental scientist has called a “death spiral”. Furthermore, a few weeks ago, the University of Alberta reported that not only had the ice shrunk in area but also its thickness had dropped by half in six years. This process feeds on itself: as ice is replaced by sea, the dark surface absorbs more heat, warming the ocean and melting more ice. The tipping point, when warming becomes irreversible and catastrophic, could be much sooner than expected. The conventional wisdom used to be that climate change would only happen gradually, giving life on this planet time to adapt, so there was little cause for immediate concern. I suggest that is no longer a credible view. Major policy responses are needed now.