The book "Mass Balance of the Cryosphere", written by a team of
23 scientists examines the state of the frozen water in the world,
looking at the Arctic and Antarctic regions, Greenland, glaciers
and sea ice. The cryosphere comprises all the frozen water and soil
on the surface of the Earth, and is an important indicator of
short- and long-term climate change.
"In the Arctic, Greenland, West Antarctic and in glaciers
globally, ice and snow levels are generally in retreat, and the
scientific consensus that average global temperatures will continue
to increase over the next century means that the risk to these
already climatically sensitive areas is increasing," said Dr
Bamber, speaking at the Kyoto Protocol talks in Milan.
"Many people don't realise that there is much more at risk than
simply a loss of pristine wilderness. For example the ocean
currents that give Europe its relatively mild climate could be
disrupted by fresh water influxes from melting ice in the Arctic
and the Gulf Stream may slow down or even stop."
"If a dramatic change to the cryosphere takes place, it could
trigger rapid and catastrophic changes to the global climate -
enough to alter the current climate as we know it."
"The level of scientific understanding about how global
temperature increase affects snow and ice is constantly improving
and it appears that our estimates of how rapidly the crysophere
responds to climate change have been underestimated in the past .
And that means it's probably going to be a lot worse than we
understand it now."
Steve Sawyer, Greenpeace International political director warned
that the science of climate change could not be ignored.
"The melting ice is a clear signal of the consequences of the
failure of governments to live up to their obligations under the
Climate Convention to avoid dangerous climate change," said Sawyer.
"Climate change is upon us, and the US, Australia and Russia's
failure to take action is immoral, illegal, and a declaration of
war on future generations and the poor in the developing
* The amount of Arctic summer sea ice is has reduced
dramatically in the past 20 years and could disappear completely
within an estimated 100 years.
* Globally mountain and alpine glaciers everywhere are losing
mass, except for a few glaciers in Europe that are not retreating.
The rate of retreat is expected to accelerate over the next
* The Greenland ice sheet - the biggest ice mass in the Northern
Hemisphere - is losing mass from around its margins. Some climate
models predict it could lose half its mass in the next 500-1000
years, contributing 3 m to global sea level rise.
* Evidence indicates that the some of the changes being seen in
the cryosphere are related to the underlying anthropogenic
(man-made) component of global warming.
* The implications of the decline of the cryosphere are far
reaching. These include risks of:
* Increased fresh water influxes from the Arctic which could
trigger a slow down or diversion of the thermohaline circulation of
the North Atlantic (Gulf Stream) that helps give most of Europe its
relatively mild climate. In turn this could impact other sea
currents and temperatures around the globe.
* Global sea level rise measurable in metres, depending on how
much of the cryosphere is lost. A sea level rise of only 1.5m would
displace up to 17million people in Bangladesh alone.
* Increased moisture fluxes in the Arctic and Northern European
atmosphere, resulting in increased rainfall and serious changes to
* Accelerated warming in the Arctic due to the strong feedback
between snow cover and absorption of solar radiation.
* Loss of habitat for Arctic animals such as polar bears, seals
and other large predators.
* Reduction of glacier meltwater, which in many parts of the
world provides water for human consumption, agriculture and
VVPR info: A video clip reel featuring Dr Bamber is available on request. Contact Martin Atkin on +31 6 2700 0057.
Notes: Visit www.greenpeace.org for more information including background briefing.Visit http://books.cambridge.org/0521808952.htm for details on the book Mass Balance of the Cryosphere, published by Cambridge University Press.For webcasting of the press conference at COP9 visit http://unfccc.int/cop9/