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How does this broken glacier impact the rest of the world? Mark explains using a simple analogy.
“If you held an ice cube over your drink and let it melt, your drink would eventually increase in volume, right? But if you took that same ice cube and just plopped it in your drink, it would increase instantly. And that’s the problem facing the world right now,” he says.
“These huge chunks of ice are slipping off. They’re no longer simply melting; they’re collapsing.”
He says this changes historical projections, which originally gave coastal communities 80 years before they would be wiped out. He now claims that the process could be accelerated by up to 20 years.
“We’re already seeing the signs of it,” Mark says. “There’s an island between Pakistan and India that’s now completely submerged. And the other effect of it is, this extra volume or weight of the ice on the ocean floor is going to put pressure on oceanic fault lines. And that, in turn, causes tsunamis.”
It’s a scary thought; one that caught the attention of global leaders at the United Nations. When Mark was asked to return to the 2010 Climate Change Conference in Cancun, The Polar Explorer made quite an impression.
“We actually convinced them to create a new resolution that we were lobbying for, to be added to the Kyoto Protocol,” he says.
The resolution, part of the Cancun Adaptation Framework, “recognizes the need to strengthen international cooperation and expertise and reduce loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change”. This means working on international strategies and strengthening defenses to deal with things like flooding, natural disasters and sea level rise.
According to Mark, the resolution is a good start, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
“In addition to building flood defenses, you have to relocate people. You can wait until the flooding starts, and you can panic, or you can move now,” he says.
“The Arctic is warming twice as fast as any place else on the planet, and Antarctica is warming five times as fast. So, when that ice melts, it’s going to contribute an enormous increase in volume to the world’s seas. It’s basically going to wipe out anybody that’s living on the coast of any continent, and that’s going to happen a lot faster than what we originally thought. As long as these temperatures continue to increase, so will the threat to man.”
The Polar Explorer is screening this month at the Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival in Toronto, October 12–16, 2011.
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