As the U.N. global climate conference in Katowice, Poland entered its second week Sunday, the non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace demanded urgent action from world leaders to tackle climate change.
Greenpeace activists projected a message onto the roof of the “Spodek” arena where the COP24 is being held, saying “No Hope Without Climate Action: and “Politicians Talk, Leaders Act.”
Disappointing many of the scientists and delegates at the conference, the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait refused to endorse a landmark study on global warming which was to be the benchmark for future action in curbing the global warming.
The four nations wanted only to “note” but not “welcome” the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was released in October, in keeping with the views of the Trump administration. With no consensus on including the report, the idea was dropped.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who has announced he is pulling the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, tweeted Saturday that “people do not want to pay large sums of money … in order to maybe protect the environment.”
The IPCC’ report said that drastic actions would be needed to achieve the Paris accord’s most ambitious target of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The report warned that the world was far from that target and heading more towards an increase of 3 degrees Celsius.
Alaska will soon close a year that is shaping up as its hottest on record, with glaciers in the “Frontier State” melting at record or near-record levels, pouring waters into rising global seas, scientists said after taking fall measurements.
Lemon Creek Glacier in Juneau, where records go back to the 1940s, had its second consecutive year of record mass loss, with 3 meters erased from the surface, U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Louis Sass told Reuters.
Melt went all the way up to the summit, said Sass, one of the experts who travel to benchmark glaciers to take measurements in the fall.
“That’s a really bad sign for a glacier,” he said, noting that high-altitude melt means there is no accumulation of snow to compact into ice and help offset lower-elevation losses.
At Wolverine Glacier on the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage, loss was the second highest in a record that goes back to the 1960s. Sass said it failed to match the record set in 2004 only because so much of the glacier had already melted.
“The lower part’s completely gone now,” he said.
Drastic melting was also reported at Kenai Fjords National Park, which former President Barack Obama once visited to call attention to climate change. There, Bear Glacier, a popular tourist spot, retreated by nearly a kilometer in just 11 months, according to August measurements by the National Park Service.
“It’s almost like you popped it and it started to deflate,” said Nate Lewis, a Seward-based wilderness guide who takes travelers into the new lake that has formed at the foot of the shrinking glacier.
Even one of the few Alaska glaciers that had been advancing, Taku just southeast of the city of Juneau, is now losing ice at a fast clip.
Particularly ominous is the high altitude at which Taku is melting, said Mauri Pelto, who heads the North Cascades Glacier Climate Project. This year, the summer melt reached as high as 1,450 meters, 25 meters above the previous high-altitude record set just last year, he said.
Casting off chunks
Now that it is retreating, Taku is expected to start casting off big ice chunks, increasing Alaska’s already significant contribution to rising sea levels, according to a study co-authored by Sass and Shad O’Neel, a glaciologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. The study is scheduled to be presented at the annual conference of the American Geologic Union next week in San Francisco.
Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July and the trend has continued.
“Alaska is on pace to break their record for warmest year unless December is dramatically cooler than forecasted,” Brian Brettschneider, a climatologist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, said in a Dec. 1 tweet.
Alaska’s glaciers account for far less than 1 percent of the world’s land ice. But their melt contributes roughly 7 percent of the water that is raising the world’s sea levels, according a 2018 study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by O’Neel.
There are also local impacts. Scientists say glacial melt affects salmon-spawning streams and harms marine fish and animal habitats. It is creating new lakes in the voids where ice used to be, and outburst floods from those lakes are happening more frequently, scientists say.