When I was a child living in North Africa we didn‘t have a refrigerator – it was the 1950s and in spite of the hot climate such mod cons had not yet reached that part of the world. Every day a horse and cart would deliver a large square-cut block of ice which would be put in the top of the ice-box and would gradually melt over the next 24 hours. We always knew that another one would be delivered next day.
I was reminded of these blocks when I watched a video on the Guardian website – here – which shows a gigantic ice shelf breaking away from the Antartic, 160 square miles (257 square kilometres) of it since February. Scientists had believed it would be another 15 years before this ice shelf broke up. The huge straight cuts and the dark sea look beautiful, but their message is terrifying. Climate change is happening and it‘s happening much faster than was previously thought.
An article in yesterday‘s Observer – here – claims that the North Pole could be free of ice in five years‘ time, not the 60 years which scientists had predicted – the melting process is speeding up. This is such an important issue for every single person on the planet that I cannot believe it is not headline news everywhere. The article quotes reputable scientists: one from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre says: ‘What is happening now indicates that global warming is occurring far earlier than any of us expected.‘ Another, from Cambridge University, says that ‘the Arctic‘s summer ice is going to last for only a few more years‘. This will have serious consequences for the climate and global warming – many of which are probably not yet properly understood.
Individuals do what they can and they must continue to do so, but politicians have the power at least to slow what is happening. Unfortunately, most are concerned only with the next election and are afraid of alienating voters by bringing in the measures which are necessary because they may limit the consumerist lifestyle to which so many in developed countries have become accustomed, or addicted. Perhaps, now that scientists are talking of five years rather than fifty – in other words the lifespan of a government – they may be willing to do something before it is too late. I hope so. There will be no new delivery of ice for the Arctic and Antarctic once it has melted.