Leading article: New frontiers

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The Independent Online

One hundred years ago, the news of a ship successfully traversing the treacherous North-east Passage would have prompted popular celebrations and wild enthusiasm. But the revelation that two German ships are on the brink of accomplishing precisely that, sailing from Europe to Asia through those cold Arctic waters, prompts altogether more sombre reflections.

This is because this latest voyage was not achieved through momentous skill or daring. Rather it was made possible by global warming, thawing the formerly thick summer Arctic sea ice. This was not another glorious chapter in the age of exploration, but a confirmation of just how rapidly and dangerously our climate is changing.

Yet the age of exploration is not entirely over. We have our own frontiers, our own great challenges. Curtailing runaway global warming is the great task that has fallen to our generation. And it is one that we all need to rise to.

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