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Physical Science

 

A large part of the North Polar Region the Arctic, Alaska and Greenland has lost over two trillion tonnes of ice over the last five years, according to scientists interpreting new data obtained from a NASA satellite. What is alarming is that the melt figure refers to depletion of landlocked ice, and more than half the loss is in Greenland, contributing to half a millimeter of sea level rise annually. The total ice melt from the entire region has led to sea levels rising by one-fifth of an inch in five years. Add to this the Arctic Amplification Effect. The increase in the volume of Arctic waters absorbs more heat in the absence of sunlight-reflecting white ice which warms the oceans even more in summer. In autumn, the heat is released into the air, leading to rise in air temperatures, up to 10 degrees warmer now than recorded in the 1980s.


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fourth assessment report warned last year that if the current rate of emissions continues unabated, the world could reach a tipping point by 2050. Among other dire consequences, this would seriously impact the availability of drinking water, especially in Asia, Africa and Small Island Developing States.


James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, says that the IPCC’s estimates are conservative and the information outdated. New data reveal a situation that is far worse, calling for a ‛Climate Code Red’. In other words, it’s a planetary emergency. The December 2008 UN climate change conference in Poznan, Poland, did not reflect this urgency. Neither specifics nor timelines for curbing emissions were agreed upon that would help formulate a global plan of action at the Copenhagen December 2009 summit to firefight climate change.


The year 2008 could be the tenth warmest year on record, according to the UN Meteorological Agency. Tackling the problem together ought to get top priority rather than assignment of blame, since emissions and their effects know no borders. The answer lies in sharing of clean technology and stepping up research and development efforts in alternative and renewable energy options despite cheaper oil. Industrialized countries should release the promised 2 per cent from carbon trade profits to the UN Adaptation Fund to help developing countries cope with the effects of climate change. India is among the hot spots identified by the UN for extreme weather events. Its National Action Plan on Climate Change shows India is taking the problem seriously. But this might be insufficient without a global plan.


Explanation

The passage begins with the alarming fact that the North Polar Region has lost over two trillion tonnes of ice over the last five years. The melting ice leads to rising sea levels. The increased water volumes absorb more heat and release it into the air, leading to rise in air temperature, which causes global warming. The recent IPCC report says that if the current rate of emissions goes unchecked the world could reach a tipping point by 2050.


James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies believes that the situation is even bleaker. The answer lies in sharing of clean technology and stepping up research and development efforts in alternative and renewable energy options. Industrialized countries should part with some of their carbon trade profits to help the developing countries cope with the effects of climate change.





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