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Polar loss three times the size of NZ big concern

15 September 2006
Polar loss three times the size of NZ a big concern - Greens

News that a chunk of ice almost three times the size of New Zealand has been lost from the Arctic in just one year is further evidence that we must act now to address climate change, the Green Party says.

"This may be happening on the other side of the planet, but the consequences will be felt here," Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

A Nasa satellite documented the shocking changes in Arctic sea ice cover in the 12 months between December 21, 2004 and December 21, 2005. The image showed the perennial think ice, which should remain all year round had declined by 14 percent - losing an area of 730,000 kilometres.

"This is a potentially dangerous escalating cycle. The polar ice caps reflect the sun's rays keeping the temperature down. Over the last half of last century there has been an increase in global temperatures. Consequently the polar regions have been shrinking meaning there is less ice to reflect the sun's heat back into space. This means the heat remains in the atmosphere, increasing global temperatures even more and melting more ice and so on.

"Added to this is another such 'positive feedback loop'. With the ice melting in Siberia, methane from the tundra, formerly trapped under the ice, is now escaping into the atmosphere and contributing to the warming of the planet, which in turn melts more of the Siberian ice.

"New Zealand may be a small country, but we have a responsibility to the rest of the planet to do our part to address climate change. We are presently, on a per capita basis, the 11th worst in the world when it comes to carbon emissions. This has to change.

"It is no longer time for us to heed the arguments from those who say the economic impacts of changing our ways are too great. If we do nothing, as they suggest, then the cost to our economy and society will be far greater.


NOTE: the satellite images are posted on the BBC website at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5344208.stm


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