I've been trying to sound the alarm on this for
ten years now. But forest activists haven't
wanted to become climate activists. What's your
I know the science and politics can be
intimidating, but so is it to learn the forest
ecology of native forests, or marine biology. But
just think about, among other horrors, how many
coastal forest ecosystems will just vanish.
Unfortunately, too, I know, we don't have the
equivalent of clearcuts to show people or to put
So ten years later, there still isn't a climate
action protest movement, and no resources have
been offered to start it. If you want to help or
can offer financial, office, or expertise
support, or can get some celebrities or otherwise
influential people involved, please drop me a
note. I would be thrilled to hear from you.
And the threat is a 20 foot increase, not 16.
Climate Action NOW!
I know I've posted this link/article before, but
for those who are new to this list, please check
out my Earth island Journal article:
February 2, 2005
Dramatic Change in West Antarctic Ice Could Produce 16ft Rise in Sea Levels
by Michael McCarthy
British scientists have discovered a new threat
to the world which may be a result of global
warming. Researchers from the Cambridge-based
British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have discovered
that a massive Antarctic ice sheet previously
assumed to be stable may be starting to
disintegrate, a conference on climate change
heard yesterday. Its collapse would raise sea
levels around the earth by more than 16 feet.
BAS staff are carrying out urgent measurements
of the remote points in the West Antarctic Ice
Sheet (WAIS) where they have found ice to be
flowing into the sea at the enormous rate of 250
cubic kilometers a year, a discharge alone that
is raising global sea levels by a fifth of a
millimeter a year.
Professor Chris Rapley, the BAS director, told
the conference at the UK Meteorological Office
in Exeter, which was attended by scientists from
all over the world, that their discovery had
reactivated worries about the ice sheet's
Only four years ago, in the last report of the
UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), worries that the ice sheet was
disintegrating were firmly dismissed.
Professor Rapley said: "The last IPCC report
characterized Antarctica as a slumbering giant
in terms of climate change. I would say it is
now an awakened giant. There is real concern."
He added: "The previous view was that WAIS would
not collapse before the year 2100. We now have
to revise that judgment. We cannot be so
sanguine." Collapse of the WAIS would be a
disaster, putting enormous chunks of low-lying,
desperately poor countries such as Bangladesh
under water - not to mention much of southern
The conference has been called by Tony Blair as
part of Britain's efforts to increase the pace
of international action on climate change, in a
year when the UK is heading the G8 group of
industrialized nations and the European Union.
Mr Blair has asked it to explore the question of
how much climate change the world can take
before the consequences are catastrophic for
human society and ecosystems.
Yesterday, it heard several alarming new
warnings of possible climate-related
catastrophic events, including the failure of
the Gulf Stream, which keeps the British Isles
warm, and the melting of the ice sheet covering
But it was the revelations of Professor Rapley,
head of one of the world's most respected
scientific bodies, which were the most dramatic,
as they reopened a concern many scientists
assumed had been laid to rest.
Antarctica as a whole is a land covered by very
thick ice, but the ice sheet covering the
eastern half of the continent is very stable as
it sits on rocks that are well above sea level.
Worries about the ice covering the western half
first surfaced more than 25 years ago when it
was realized that the base rocks are actually
well below the level of the sea.
In some circumstances, it was feared, such as a
melting of the edge of the ice sheet from rising
temperatures, sea water could get under it and
eventually lead to its collapse.
Yet the 2001 IPCC report, the principal
consensus view of the international community of
climate scientists, thought that very unlikely,
and said such a collapse was improbable before
the end of the current century, or even for
What puts a very big question mark over this,
Professor Rapley said, was the recent discovery
of the extremely rapid discharge of ice into the
Amundsen sea from the WAIS at three remote ice
streams, Pine Island, Thwaites, and another
"There is a very dramatic discharge from this
region which, five years ago when the IPCC
report was written, we just didn't know about,"
he said. "What we have found completely opens up
the whole debate." It had only been recently
discovered, he said, because the area was so
remote. But BAS scientists, with US help, had
established a base in the area to investigate.
Professor Rapley said there was some evidence
that the discharge was a relatively recent
phenomenon and it might be caused by rising
Margaret Beckett, the Environment Secretary, who
opened the conference, added another ominous
prediction when she said that major global
warming impacts on the world in the next 20 to
30 years could not be avoided. Whatever we do,
potentially disastrous world temperature rises
will take place because they are already "built
into the system," she said.
Her forecast that we are powerless to prevent
major damage from climate change is accepted by
scientists but it is rare for such a frank
admission from a politician. It reflects the
concern at a high level.
It was amplified by senior climate researchers,
who said the amount of future warming to which
the world is firmly committed, because of
greenhouse gases that have already been put into
the atmosphere, will be enough to threaten the
survival of many ecosystems and wildlife species
such as polar bears and penguins.
"I believe that most of the warming we are
expecting over the next few decades is now
virtually inevitable, and even in this time
frame we may expect a significant impact," Mrs
© 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.
Native Forest Council
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