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Al Gore and Norwegian Foreign Minister present ice melting report

December 15, 2009

Former US Vice President Al Gore and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas
Gahr Støre will on Monday present a report on melting ice at the UN
Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. (With new material)

For the first time ever, leading international scientists have drawn up
a report on the status of the parts of the world covered by snow and
ice. The conclusion is that they are disappearing faster than
anticipated. “This is disturbing news. The world’s leaders must reach an
agreement that ensures dramatic cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases,”
commented Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Today, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and former US Vice
President Al Gore are presenting a report on the melting of the
cryosphere – that areas of the world covered by snow and ice – at a side
event at the climate summit in Copenhagen (COP15). Mr Støre and Mr Gore
requested a group of the world’s leading climate researchers to produce
the report at the conference on melting ice in Tromsø in Norway, in
April. The Norwegian Polar Institute has coordinated their work.

The report shows that snow and ice are melting at an alarming rate, and
that the cryosphere is very vulnerable to climate change. The most
important new findings relate to Antarctica. Mighty Antarctica, which
previously seemed immune to the loss of ice that has occurred in other
areas, shows signs of a net reduction of ice on a similar scale to that
of inland Greenland.

“This gives cause for concern. The overriding message is that we have to
succeed in Copenhagen. The countries of the world must agree on measures
that limit emissions of greenhouse gases, and restrict global warming to
two degrees. Furthermore, we need an emergency plan for the crysosphere,
with immediate measures to save as much of our ice and snow cover as
possible. We should start by cutting emissions of short-lived drivers of
climate change such as soot and ozone, which are not included in any
climate agreement today, and we also need to pay more attention to
short-lived greenhouse gases such as HFCs and methane. Measures to
reduce these would have immediate effect and cost relatively little,”
said Mr Støre.

“This report, the result of over two year of work with Foreign Minister
Store and many of the world’s top scientists, demonstrates that we must
take action now to solve the climate crisis. The Arctic ecosystem, the
world’s glaciers, indeed the entire cryosphere is at risk if we don’t
cut the pollution that causes global warming,” said Mr Gore.

The report shows that:

* The rate of reduction in the Greenland ice cap has tripled in the last
ten years alone.

* Snow cover is diminishing, and glaciers from the Himalayas to the Alps
are melting rapidly, with the greatest reductions in the Andes and the
Rockies.

* The previous figures from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, which were published in 2007, indicated that sea levels would
rise by almost half a metre by 2100; this is now a minimum estimate.
Since the rate of melting in Greenland and other areas is now faster
than anticipated, it is now estimated that sea levels will rise between
0.5 and 1.5 metres by 2100, and in the worst case by 2.0 metres. This
will affect many hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas.

* When snow and sea ice melt, less sunlight is reflected away from the
surface of the Earth, and when permafrost melts, more methane and CO2
are released. Both these changes further increase global warming and
thus cause ice to melt even faster.

* The melting of glaciers can cause extensive water shortages. Today,
more than a billion people depend on water from the Himalayan plateau,
which is often referred to as the “third pole”.
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