Pictures of climate change from the disappearing glaciers of Patagonia

Press release - 10 February, 2004
New visual evidence of the impacts of climate change was released Greenpeace in Patagonia today. Dramatic new photos of Patagonian glaciers taken by the research team on board the Greenpeace vessel /Arctic Sunrise/ show the extent to which climate change has caused the ice to melt this century, when compared to photos of the same glaciers taken in 1928.

Top image: 1928, *Historic Image* Original photograph taken in 1928 of the Upsala Glacier. Bottom image: January 2004, Composite image of Upsala Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina.

Greenpeace campaigner Joris Thijssen, said: "Rising temperatures are causing glaciers to melt all over the world. Here in Patagonia, they are disappearing at a rate of 42 cubic kilometres every year - faster than anywhere else on Earth. There are many reasons for the speed of the retreat and climate change is the trigger of this process."

In recent years the melting of the glaciers in Patagonia has accelerated which indicates human induced climate change. From 1995 through 2000 the rate of ice loss from the ice fields more than doubled. The sheer volume of melt water from glaciers is causing the sea levels to rise (1), increasing the risk of flooding in many of the world's coastal areas. It is also starting to cause problems for people who depend on the glaciers for their fresh water supply. This may cause enormous problems in the future given that a third of the world's population - 2 billion people - rely on rivers fed by Himalayan glaciers alone.

Greenpeace has been touring Patagonia and Chile for 4 weeks, investigating the extent to which the glaciers and ice-fields there are disappearing. The research team's findings confirm that a number of large glaciers, such as the San Quintin and Upsala glaciers, part of the Northern and Southern Patagonian ice-fields, have significantly thinned and have retreated several kilometres in recent years.

A recent study by the journal Nature (2) showed that climate change could drive a million of the world's species to extinction as soon as 2050.

"Climate change is a global problem - not only do we risk losing the world's glaciers but we are already witnessing an increased frequency and severity of floods (3), droughts and storms, loss of coral reefs, rises in sea levels and a rapid spread of diseases such as malaria," added Thijssen.

Climate change is occurring because we use energy created by fossil fuels -oil, coal and gas. When these fuels are burned, they release carbon dioxide (CO2), a so called 'greenhouse gas' that causes the Earth to warm.

"We all use energy in our daily lives and so we all have a part to play in solving this global crisis. Instead of relying on fossil fuels for ourenergy, we must make sure we are provided with clean energy from the sun, wind and small-scale hydro," concluded Thijssen. (4)

Renewable energy technologies and industries are poised on the brink of a revolution all they need is political support. World leaders are being invited for the first time to attend an international renewables conference, to be held in Bonn (June 1 to 4, 2004 ) Greenpeace calls upon all world leaders to attend to this conference and to adopt firm commitments to provide a minimum to 20 % of our power from clean sources by 2020.

Notes: Briefing available at :" Contribution of the Patagonia Icefields of South America to Sea Level Rise" by Eric Rignot, Andrés Rivera and Gino Casassa, /Science/ 2003 October 17; 302: 434-437. (In Reports) Link "Extinction risk from climate change". Nature, January 2004. Link Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Link Send a Postcard from Patagonia Link