Wilkins Ice Shelf
Canaries were a coal miner’s best friend even well into the 20th Century. As long as the canary in the coal mine kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe – however a dead canary signalled an immediate evacuation.
Climate change works on the same principal – observed climate impacts are ‘canaries dying in the coal mine’ and signalling immediate danger. The latest dead climate canary was last week’s dramatic collapse of the 100km long ‘Ice Bridge’ that was holding back the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Western Antarctic Peninsula (watch via the space cam). The Wilkins Ice Shelf is the furthest south Antarctica Ice Shelf to start to disintegrate – and it is breaking apart despite the onset of the Antarctic Winter! According to British Antarctic Survey the retreat of Wilkins Ice Shelf is the latest and the largest of its kind. Eight separate ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula are showing signs of retreat as the West Antarctic climate has warmed - by 3ºC over the last 50 years! The thud of dying climate canaries is such that scientists are now becoming severely stretched as they try to document the climate collapse that is underway.
But the political leaders of the western world (including John Key) are covering their ears to the increasing thuds and thus becoming more and more out of touch from the reality of accelerating climate change. How long will it take before they are held personally accountable for sticking to (or in the case of John Key, scrapping) climate policies that ignore the emerging scientific consensus that we may be ten years away from reaching the ‘tipping point’ of runaway catastrophic climate change?
My personal prediction is that this will be by the end of the year, if these leaders do not commit at the final United Nations Climate negotiations in Copenhagen to 40 per cent reductions (based on 1990 levels) in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Unfortunately, we have just seen another round of climate talks leading up to Copenhagen, this time in Bonn, Germany, fail. Once again country negotiators are leaving without a plan or having left any money on the table to tackle climate change. We need our leaders to take personal responsibility for this process and give their negotiators clear and strong direction over the course of this year. Then they need to show up to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December, and commit to the climate deal that we all need.
All the solutions to climate change exist today. All that is needed is a political will. We can all get our leaders on the right path by getting vocal and active. It is now or never.