UN Chief ‘alarmed’ at glacier melt

 

Mr Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, is on a two-day trip to the Arctic to see first-hand the effects of climate change ahead of international climate talks in Copenhagen in December.

He is the first UN chief to visit the Ny-Alesund research station.

World leaders will gather at a UN climate summit in December to try to seal a new international accord on fighting climate change after the Kyoto Protocol requirements expire in 2012.

Mr Ban, who visited the Polar Ice Rim aboard a Norwegian coastguard vessel, said politicians must act now.

“We have a moral political responsibility for our future and for the whole of humanity, for even the future of our planet,” he said.

“This Arctic is the place where this global warming is happening much faster than any other region in the world.

“It looks like it’s seemingly moving in slow motion but it’s moving faster and faster. Much faster than expected.”

The UN chief visited the Zeppelin atmospheric measuring station on Ny-Alesund which records the level of carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases and pollutants in the air.

“Over the past two years, we’ve suddenly seen a very big increase in methane gas,” Kim Holmen, research director at the Norwegian Polar Institute, told Mr Ban.

Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that contributes to global warming.

Mr Holmen warned that glaciers were melting at an increasing rate, releasing massive amounts of fresh water in the oceans and disrupting the Gulf stream – a flow of water in the Atlantic that has a major impact on the planet’s weather system.

Mr Ban hopes to use his experience in Svalbard to convince the international community about the dangers of climate change at the Copenhagen summit, a meeting he has described as “crucial”.

Mr Ban is also due to travel to Longyearbyen, the main town in the archipelago, to tour a vault carved into the Arctic permafrost and filled with samples of the world’s most important seeds.

Dubbed the “Noah’s Ark” of food, the vault can hold up to 4.5 million samples that can provide food crops in the event of a global catastrophe.

 

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