Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in front of the Glacier Fjortende Julibreenon Svalbard.
The Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, today released results
of a documentation journey to glaciers in the Arctic islands of
Svalbard, some of which are retreating up to 150m a year because of
warmer temperatures and altered snow and rain patterns caused by
"The retreat of the Kongsvegen glacier by 150m a year is just
one example of what is happening globally," said Truls Gulowsen,
Greenpeace climate campaigner in Svalbard. "Glaciers are more than
just magnificent landscapes. Around the world they are the water
sources for millions of people, animals and plants. Increased
temperatures brought about by greenhouse polluting fuels like coal,
oil and gas, are destroying glaciers. Unless we break our addiction
to fossil fuels, we risk the wholesale destruction of glaciers,
which would have a huge impact on billions of lives."
Greenpeace today is launching a website comparing modern and
historic images of glaciers from around the world to illustrate how
climate change is already taking its toll. The website
www.greenpeace.org features paired images of glaciers in the USA,
Peru, New Zealand, Nepal, Austria, Uganda and Svalbard (Norway) in
the Arctic, as well as background information on these
Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other
part of the world, according to the International Commission for
Snow and Ice and the School of Environmental Studies of India's
Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. If the present rate
continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by 2350 is very
high. More than 2 billion people - a third of the human population
- rely on the rivers that are fed from the Himalayas. If the
Himalayan glaciers disappear, it would have devastating
The Svalbard glaciers in Kongsfjorden began an almost continuous
retreat around 1900. Blomstrandbreen has retreated around 2km in
the past 80 years. Since 1960, the average retreat of that glacier
has been about 35m a year, accelerating in the past decade. The
glacier was connected to the former peninsula Blomstrandhalv?ya
until 1992 but now there is a passage of nearly 1km between
Blomstrandhalv?ya, which is now an island, and the glacier's
rapidly retreating front.
The Kongsvegen glacier of the Kongsbreen complex has retreated
about 150m a year for the past 50 years. Other glaciers in the area
have fared equally badly. Conwaybreen has retreated by 3.5km since
1880, and14Julybreen has reduced about 2km since 1906.
The Rainbow Warrior conducted the documentation journey to the
glaciers of Svalbard with Professor Jon Ove Hagen from the
University of Oslo, and was assisted in its documentation by the
Norwegian Polar Institute.
"The glacier retreats we have seen in Kongsfjorden are due to
climatic changes over the last century," said Professor Ove Hagen.
"If global warming continues as the climate models predict, we can
expect an accelerated retreat of these glaciers in the future, as
we have already seen happening in Alaska and other places across
the rest of the world."
"Climate change is a global problem - not only do we risk losing
the world's glaciers but we face many other impacts such as
increased floods, droughts and storms, loss of coral reefs, sea
-level rise and rapid spread of vector-borne diseases," said
Benedict Southworth, coordinator of Greenpeace's international
"Later this month governments from around the world meet in
Johannesburg for the Earth Summit. Greenpeace has gone to the ends
of the earth - literally - to remind them of what is at stake if
they don't act now to protect the environment. Climate change is
hurting the whole world, not just the Arctic, and energy is a
crucial development issue. They must get it right now."
Greenpeace is campaigning for governments to make a commitment
at the Johannesburg Earth Summit to provide clean and affordable
renewable energy to the two billion people around the world who
currently live without electricity, and is demanding governments
ensure that 10% of all electricity supply by 2010 is provided from
green, renewable sources.
The Svalbard expedition is on the north leg of Greenpeace's
Choose Positive Energy tour, campaigning against nuclear and fossil
fuel energy. The Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise is presently
campaigning in the South China Sea against coal-fired power
stations and in support of clean renewable energy such as wind,
solar and modern biomass.
Download the media briefing Climate change impacts on glaciers
around the world pdf file (26k)
VVPR info: Vision and photographs of Svalbard glaciers are available on request.Contact Jon Novis on +31 6 53819121 for photographs, and Mim Lowe for video on +31 20 524 9543 or + 31 6 535 04721