Wednesday, May 2, 2007


When history books are written, 2007 is likely to be considered the year the world woke up to climate change. It began with the release of the UK Commissioned Stern Report early in the year that elaborated on the economic effects of climate change. Then the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a summary report for policy makers, while other reports shook the world with predictions of an ice free North Pole in the summertime as early as 30 years from now.

Now the National Snow and Ice Research Centre at the University of Boulder Colorado has released more information that reveals that the situation is far worse than has been reported thus far. Scientists at the Research Centre report that measurements taken over the last 50 years demonstrate that artic ice is actually melting three times faster than we thought.

According to real data taken from the field, we have lost an average of about 9% of the ice mass every ten years.

The implications of this are staggering. It reveals that the projections contained in the IPCC Report and the Stern Report and virtually all the computer models are not aggressive enough. At a rate of ice loss of nearly 9% per decade, polar ice caps will disappear much sooner than we thought, and as the melting continues, the global warming trend will speed up in a phenomenon called ‘The positive feedback loop’.

The best way to appreciate the impact of the positive feedback loop is to imagine a line of dominoes on a table, where when one is pushed over, the rest of the line of dominoes fall one after the other. Water absorbs more heat energy from the sun than ice does, because light penetrates water, while ice bounces the light rays back into space. As sunlight energy is absorbed by the water, more heat is trapped on the earth’s surface which in turn speeds up global warming.

Grenada’s Climate Change consultant, Leon Charles has explained in his draft of Grenada’s Climate Change Policy and Action Plan that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet alone would result in an estimated 7 metre sea level rise. To visualize that, picture a height almost equal to two stories in a house.

As we follow the global developments on climate change, and consider that the UN Security Council discussed climate change as a global threat to security for the first time on April 17th, and a possible emergency Climate Change Summit may be held in September of this year; we can only be thankful that Grenada is keeping pace with the rest of the world and will soon have a Climate Change Policy and Action Plan to help ensure our survival in this rapidly changing world.