Global warming 'will redraw map of world'

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The Independent Online

Maps of the world will have to be redrawn, as global warming melts the Greenland ice cap, inundating coasts and major cities, the Government's chief scientific adviser warned last week.

Maps of the world will have to be redrawn, as global warming melts the Greenland ice cap, inundating coasts and major cities, the Government's chief scientific adviser warned last week.

Sir David King told ministers, senior officials and leaders of industry at a top-level conference on climate change in Berlin that there was a "real risk" the ice sheet would not survive and that "humanity had better be prepared for a complete realignment of the coastal zones, where most of the world's major cities are sited".

He added that parts of the ice sheet had already retreated by up to 30 feet in the past few years, compared to 10 feet between 1890 and 1950.

Other experts at the conference, which was opened by the Queen to signal her concern about climate change, confirmed that the ice cap, which contains a sixth of the world's fresh water, was already beginning to melt.

If the entire ice cap disappeared, sea levels around the world would rise by 20 feet, drowning much of London, New York, Tokyo, Bombay, Calcutta and other large cities.

Sir John Houghton, a former head of the Meteorological Office and the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, and one of the world's leading experts on global warming, told The Independent on Sunday: "We are getting almost to the point of irreversible meltdown, and will pass it soon if we are not careful."

Professor Jacqueline McGlade, chief executive of the European Environment Agency, who has just returned from Greenland, added: "You see it happening before your very eyes. I stood by a chasm which, five years ago, had been filled with ice."

Delegates to the conference agreed that the threat from climate change was "real, serious and urgent" and that it could have "a devastating impact on human society and the natural environment".

And they called on the world to take action that would "go much further than the modest provisions of the Kyoto Protocol", which will come into effect early next year now that Russia has finalised its ratification process.

Dr Klaus Töpfer, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, who chaired the conference, said: "Climate change is happening and it is increasing in speed. Leadership is urgently needed to take the fight against its devastating impacts forward."

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