Global warming fears as polar ice cap melts

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The Independent Online

The icecap at the North Pole has melted for the first time in 50 million years, reinforcing fears about global warming.

The icecap at the North Pole has melted for the first time in 50 million years, reinforcing fears about global warming.

Scientists on board the Russian icebreaker Yamal came across a mile-long lake of open water within the icecap at the pole, where the ice is usually at least nine feet thick in summer. The Yamal was able to sail from Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago, through thin ice into the lake.

The discovery has strengthened predictions that within 50 years the icecap could disappear each summer unless the discharge of climate-changing gases, such as carbon dioxide, is heavily cut.Such melting would devastate Arctic wildlife populations and would change Britain's climate significantly.

James McCarthy, director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, was on board the Yamal. He said: "There was a sense of alarm. Global warming was real, and we were seeing its effects for the first time that far north."

World leaders are meeting in Copenhagen in November for talks on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Britain is expected to meet its target, but the United States faces pressure for not committing to cuts.

* Efforts began yesterday to recover the bodies of four Royal Air Force crew killed in May 1941 in Iceland when their Fairey Battle bomber crashed on a glacier. Their remains were exposed last year during an unusually warm spell, and will be buried with full military honours in Reykjavik.

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