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Huge Polar Ice Loss Demands Global Declaration Of Climate Emergency

By Dr Gideon Polya

11 February, 2008

The World urgently needs a Declaration of Climate Emergency to meet the huge threat from accelerating and catastrophic polar ice melting. Climate scientists have recently discovered that the rate of polar ice loss is accelerating unexpectedly and that the current atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) has reached a tipping point for complete loss of Arctic sea ice in as little as 5 years. Positive feedback elements mean that the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are acutely threatened and the World faces the real possibility of huge sea level rises in the coming decades (6 meters by 2100) and catastrophe for ecosystems, species survival, sustainability and Humanity. This indeed is a Climate Emergency and a Sustainability Emergency that warrants an immediate World Declaration if a State of Climate Emergency (see: ).

In December 2007 the Bali Climate Change Conference attempted to set targets for reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution by Developed Countries. However the Bali Conference was wrecked by Bush-ite America with the able assistance of its loyal allies Bush-ite Canada and neo-Bush-ite Australia. These three climate criminal countries lead the developed world in per capita greenhouse gas pollution but were selfishly and irresponsibly insistent that there should be no greenhouse reduction targets for them (see “Climate Criminal, Bali-wrecker Rudd Australia faces World sanctions:

However recent developments in climatology have made the whole idea of “greenhouse gas emission reduction targets” (e.g. 20% by 2020, 80% by 2050) as espoused by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - and indeed by green activists and target-resolved EU countries at the Bali Conference - quite irrelevant. Just as the melting of polar ice sheets and sea ice is proceeding at an accelerating rate, so is the scientific identification of the acute danger to the planet. According to top US and UK scientists it is no longer a matter even of “zero emissions” but of “NEGATIVE CO2 emissions” to return the Earth to a sustainable and safe atmospheric CO2 concentration of 300-350 ppm (parts per million) (see: “Climate sustainability emergency. Negative CO2 emissions needed now to save Planet”: ).

For a February 2008 review of the scientific evidence for the mounting catastrophe that has prompted these stark warnings see the recently published, highly-referenced, must-read, Friends of the Earth-sponsored book entitled “Climate Code Red – the Case for a Sustainability Emergency” by David Spratt (from Carbon Equity) and Philip Sutton (Greenleap Strategic Institute) ( it can be downloaded: ).

The essence of “Climate Code Red” is that the World is facing a Climate Emergency and a Sustainability Emergency because we have passed a crucial atmospheric CO2 “tipping point” for retention of Arctic summer sea ice. “Climate Code Red” further declares that, as demanded by to US climate expert Dr James Hansen, we need not “CO2 emissions reduction targets” or “zero CO2 emissions” but NEGATIVE CO2 EMISSIONS to return the Planet to a safe, sustainable 300-350 ppm CO2.

The reasons for this sudden lurch in perception can be seen in the conservative, inter-governmental nature of the IPCC, its need for consensus and its 2005 “cut off point” for the scientific literature to be considered for its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report – and the reality that in the last few years scientists have discovered that the rate of melting of the Arctic sea ice and of the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets has been much greater than predicted.

Some history before we continue. John Tyndall first discovered the warming of gases through light absorption in the late 19th century (my personal library contains an 1886 edition of his book “Fragments of Science”, a collection of essays that considers this problem). As a scientist I was introduced to our impact on nature by reading Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” (1962), the book credited with launching the environmentalist movement. I was aware of the finiteness of the Earth’s atmosphere and the solar energy relations at the beginning of my scientific career 40 years ago (back then I was researching in the area of photosynthesis and plant energy transduction).

Acute concerns began to crystallize in about 1970 with the formation of the Club of Rome in 1968 and the publication of its seminal “Limits to Growth” in 1972 (see: ). The 1989 Montreal Protocol to control ozone layer-depleting chlorofluorohydrocarbons (CFCs) was a major achievement. Mounting concerns about man-made (anthropogenic) climate change through greenhouse gas pollution led to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) setting up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1988 (see: ).

The IPCC currently involves hundreds of scientists from around the world as authors, contributors and reviewers and issues regular, scientific consensus-based Assessment reports. The first IPCC Assessment Report of 1990 led to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which was opened for signature in the Rio de Janeiro Summit in 1992 (in force in 1994) that provides the overall global policy framework for addressing the climate change. The IPCC Second Assessment Report of 1995 provided key assessments for the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 (the major polluters, Bush-ite Australia and the US under both Clinton and Bush, refused to sign but the new Rudd Labor Australian Government recently signed the Kyoto Protocol as its first act in December 2007).The Third Assessment Report of 2001 as well as Special and Methodology Reports provided further data for operations under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

The Fourth Assessment Report of 2007 and its Summary Report (see a Summary of the Summary:
) made even more dire predictions about global warming, sea level rises and impact on human populations than its predecessors but listed these under various “scenarios”. However, as indicated above, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report was much too conservative, this being due to Bush American pressure and a 2005 “cut-off date” for consensus consideration of the latest data published in the scientific literature. The 2007 IPCC Report was accordingly several years out if date when it was published.

Data from 2 independent sources (see: “Recent CO2 rises exceed worst case scenarios”, New Scientist, 2007) reveal that ACTUAL rates of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission are the same or worse than in the worst case IPCC scenario A1F1 that, according to the 2007 IPCC Summary, will lead to catastrophic, long-term stabilization at (upper estimates) 790 ppm CO2, and a 6 degree centigrade higher temperature and 3.7 meter sea level rise relative to pre-industrial levels i.e. CO2 catastrophically at twice today’s level of 385 ppm , temperatures 4-5 degrees Centigrade above today’s and sea level 0.8-3.5 metres above today’s.

However the situation and its scientific perception have become even worse (see “Climate Emergency, Sustainability Emergency”: ). The latest scientific findings are that the IPCC 2007 Report has greatly under-estimated the rate of melting of Arctic sea ice and of the Greenland Ice sheet. Climate scientists such as Dr James Hansen from NASA have found that water from melted ice is lubricating and speeding up the movement of glaciers to the sea; the so-called “albedo flip” involving converting light-reflecting, white ice to light-absorbing, dark sea is dramatically speeding up loss of Arctic sea ice; and the consequent increase in temperature in the Arctic provides a positive feedback to increase sea ice melting and Greenland ice sheet melting (see Hansen, J., Mki. Sato, P. Kharecha, G. Russell, D.W. Lea, and M. Siddall, 2007: Climate change and trace gases. Phil. Trans. Royal. Soc. A, 365, 1925-1954,.2007; for the abstract of this key 2007 paper of Dr James Hansen with other climate scientists in the prestigious Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, see: ). For analysis and dramatic images of Arctic ice melting see:

The latest scientific findings have dramatically superseded the 2007 IPCC Report warnings of severe problems in the developing world already and dire global consequences in future decades. The time frame has been dramatically reduced. Thus the top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen says that the “tipping point” for the melting of Arctic ice has already been reached at the current 385 ppm atmospheric CO2 and it is apparent that the present atmospheric CO2 concentration is sufficient to completely remove summer-time Arctic sea ice (some scientists say this may be completely gone by as early as 2013, a mere 5 years away). However most alarming is the potential instability of large ice sheets, especially those of West Antarctica and Greenland.

According to Dr Hansen, in calling for an immediate cessation of coal power: “If disintegration of these ice sheets passes their tipping points, dynamical collapse could proceed out of our control. If it melts completely, West Antarctica alone contains enough water to cause about 20 feet (6 meters) of sea-level rise. There are also tipping points in life systems. Today, as global temperature increases at a rate of about 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.36 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade, isotherms (a line of average temperature) are moving poleward at a rate of about 50-60 kilometers (35 miles) per decade. In response, some species are moving.” (see “: ).

This expert declaration of a Climate Emergency and Sustainability Emergency means that the December 2007 Bali-wrecking Australian, US and Canadian position of “no 2020 targets” was a gross insult to Humanity. However the harsh reality is that even the strongest Bali CO2 emission reduction targets (80% by 2050) have been superseded.

According to top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen we need “negative CO2 emissions” NOW to reduce the earth’s atmospheric CO2 from a current very dangerous 385 ppm to a sustainable level of about 300-350 ppm,. According to a recent BBC report: “Dr Hansen stressed that the point of no return had not been reached - that irreversible change had not taken place. He said that to get the Arctic ice to recover would require a reduction in CO2 concentrations down to about 300 or 350 ppmv. He believed this was possible, and called for greater energy efficiency and corrective pricing of carbon to allow cleaner technologies to compete and take over from fossil fuels.”
(see: ).

According to the 2007 IPCC Synthesis report, unaddressed CO2 pollution and global warming will have a devastating effect on global malnutrition and poverty (see:
). According to Professor David Pimentel (2004), global malnutrition and poverty will be an “unimaginable” problem by 2054 (see: ), already pollution of the soil, water and air kills about 40% of the world’s population and 57% of the world’s population of 6.5 billion is already malnourished (see:

The top UK climate scientist Professor James Lovelock FRS predicts acute danger to 6-9 billion people and over 6 billion deaths this century (see:
; see also Lovelock, J. (2006), The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back – and How We Can Still Save Humanity (Allen Lane, London)).

ALREADY 16 million people die avoidably each year due to deprivation and deprivation exacerbated disease However a combination of climate change, decreased agricultural yields in the tropics, peak oil and the US biofuel perversion and competition for global food by India and China have dramatically increased the global grain prices that have doubled in the last year (see:
). This is already contributing to global avoidable mortality (there is currently an annual avoidable mortality of 16 million people from deprivation and deprivation-exacerbated disease (see: “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: and ). This now raises the spectre of a massive, Third World re-run now of the man-made, “market forces” Bengal Famine of 1943-1945 in British-ruled India that killed 6-7 million people in the region.

The 1943-1945 man-made Bengal Famine was due to deliberate, sustained and hence intentional British policy - 6-7 million perished in Bengal and the neighbouring states of Assam, Orissa and Bihar as the price of rice doubled and then quadrupled under a merciless, racist British administration that remorselessly refused to take action to protect its starving Subjects. This atrocity was accompanied by the large-scale civilian and military sexual abuse of starving women and girls; was associated with a 1940s demographic deficit of 10 million people in Bengal alone and has been suggested by several expert historians to have been due to a deliberated British “scorched earth: strategic policy to discourage Japanese invasion from Burma (see a recent, January 2008 BBC exposé of the Bengal Famine:

The man-made Bengal Famine atrocity was bigger than the World War 2 Jewish Holocaust (5-6 million victims) and was the first WW2 atrocity to be described as a “Holocaust” but has become a “forgotten holocaust: - several generations of racist, lying British academics, journalists and politicians have outrageously deleted it from British history and from general public perception (see “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: , “Jane Austen and the Black Hole of British History” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 1998): and

Now we see, again, that history ignored yields history repeated - Bengal (and indeed mega-delta regions of Asia, the Americas and Africa) are now under acute threat from global warming-induced sea level rises and storm surges. Asia and Africa in general are also facing a huge immediate threat from huge current prices in the price of grain. A major impetus has been the huge growth in biofuel diversion of grain production due to the arrival of peak oil, the perception of peak oil and global warming considerations. The horrible actuality is that scientists have recently found that biofuel is not CO2 neutral. According to a study, co-authored by Dr Joe Fargione, “converting rainforests, peatlands, savannas, or grasslands to produce biofuels in Brazil, Southeast Asia, and the United States creates a ‘biofuel carbon debt’ by releasing 17 to 420 times more carbon dioxide than the fossil fuels they replace" (see:

On Saturday February 9, 2008 at a Climate Convergence Conference in Melbourne, various environmental activist groups decided to form a Climate Emergency Coalition to urgently spread the message and to lobby for a Declaration of a State of Emergency in Australia and the World to meet the Climate Emergency and Sustainability Emergency. As Dr Hansen has said, we urgently need a lowering of atmospheric CO2 to about 300-350 ppm and a major step now must be an immediate moratorium on coal power - we must keep fossil fuels in the ground to save Humanity and the Biosphere.

The good news is that (a) the solar energy incident upon the Earth is about 10,000 times the amount of energy man presently uses and (b) the latest technologies - concentrated solar, silicon photovoltaics, non-silicon thin-film photovoltaics, wind, wave, tidal power and geothermal technologies – are able to exploit this huge resource. The “true cost of coal power” (taking into account its environmental and human health impact) is about 5 times the current “market price” that ignores the environmental and social impact – the latest renewable technologies are cheaper than the “true cost of coal power” . This can not only save the Planet but represents an enormous economic opportunity for Humanity (see: and ).

The catastrophic melting of the Arctic sea ice and the accelerating loss of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are predicted to cause sea level rises of 6 meters this century and an ecological catastrophe that will see massive ecocide, species extinctions and the deaths of over 6 billion people (see:
; ).

The politicians refuse to lead – so the People must lead. Tell everyone you can – the catastrophe of accelerating polar ice loss demands an immediate Global Declaration of a State of Climate Emergency, the rapid cessation of coal power and NEGATIVE CO2 emissions.

Dr Gideon Polya published some 130 works in a 4 decade scientific career, most recently a huge pharmacological reference text "Biochemical Targets of Plant Bioactive Compounds" (CRC Press/Taylor & Francis, New York & London, 2003). He has just published “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” (G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: and ).

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