28 april 2009

Melt from Andes to Arctic may spur UN climate pact

Reuters, Tue Apr 28, 2009

* Melting ice should help spur new U.N. climate deal

* Arctic thaw mirrored in Andes glacier retreat

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

TROMSOE, Norway, April 28 (Reuters) - A fast melt of ice from the Andes to the Arctic should be a wake-up call for governments to work out a strong new United Nations treaty this year to fight climate change, Norway said on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, starting two-day talks of the eight Arctic nations and scientists in the northern city of Tromsoe, said ice was vanishing from land around the planet as temperatures increase, raising sea levels.

"It is a global phenomenon reflecting global warming," he told a news conference, referring to a thaw in places such as "the Himalayas, the Alps, the Andes, Kilimanjaro, Greenland, the South Pole or the North Pole."

Stoere said he and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, also attending the Tromsoe talks, planned to set up a task force of experts to study the melt and report to a U.N. conference in Copenhagen in December that is due to agree a new climate pact.

Latest evidence of the melt would be a "clarion call, a real wake-up message to Copenhagen," he said.

Many glaciers are retreating but until now, he said the links between a thaw on mountains in the tropics and the Arctic have not been highlighted enough, he said.

Vanishing ice "is not in the grey zone of probabilities, it is about to happen. It is serious, we have to deal with it," he said.

The U.N. Climate Panel projected in 2007 world sea levels would rise by between 18 and 59 cms (7-23 inches) this century. Some scientists have said the rate is likely to be closer to a metre.


And that can impact irrigation. A melt of the Himalayas could disrupt farming for hundreds of millions of people in Asia.

The U.N. has projected up to a quarter of global food production could be lost by 2050 due to a combination of climate change, water scarcity, degradation and species infestation, as the world's population is forecast to top 9 billion.

"The Arctic continues to warm," according to a report by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, grouping scientists in the region.

It said several indicators since a major 2005 report "show further and extensive climate change at rates faster than previously anticipated."

Sea ice in summer shrank to a record low in 2007.

Stoere will hold talks about melting ice on Tuesday before a formal meeting of Arctic Council foreign ministers or deputies on Wednesday in the Arctic city of Tromsoe, ringed by snow-capped mountains.

The Council groups the United States, Russia, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

He said there were chances for cooperation in the Arctic, saying he hoped it would be "high north, low tension".

Countries could act regionally to reduce pollution that accelerates the melt, he added. Soot from industrial pollution or from forest fires, for instance, can blacken snow and make it melt faster.

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