Arctic polar cap may disappear this summer

Updated: 2008-03-01 14:24

OSLO -- The polar cap in the Arctic may well disappear this summer due to the global warming, Dr. Olav Orheim, head of the Norwegian International Polar Year Secretariat, said on Friday.

The shrinking of the Arctic ice cap has been astonishing, Orheim said in an interview with Xinhua.

"Ice sheet hit the historical low of 3 million square km during the hottest weeks last summer, while it covered 7.5 million square km on average before the year 2000, " he said.

"If Norway's average temperature this year equals that in 2007, the ice cap in the Arctic will all melt away, which is highly possible judging from current conditions," Orheim said.

According to a UN report last year, the world's average temperature could rise by as much as 6 degrees centigrade by the end of the century, causing serious harm to ecosystems worldwide.

Human activity has been the primary driver of the observed changes in climate. Emissions of the key greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere result in the greenhouse effect.

Shrinking ice cap in the Arctic Ocean even produced a new sea route from the Bering Strait to Oslo last summer, said Orheim. Maritime enterprises in some industrial nations such as the United States and Britain have started mulling on how to use it to cut cost over the past six months, he added.

"We are deeply concerned for the situation," he said, adding that any leak from oil tankers will exert irreversible impact on ecological security in the Arctic region.

Even if no such disaster occurs, too much human activities will cause unpredictable results for the vulnerable ecological environment in the region, Orheim said.

Orheim believed such actions actually reflected the short sight and irresponsible stances of developed nations on the issues of climate change.

Asia will be hardest hit with the rising sea level caused by global warming, said the expert. "A meter higher of the sea level will bring impacts to nearly 100 million people on an area of 800,000 square km in Asia and direct economic loss will amount to 400 billion U.S. dollars." he said.

The developed nations should take the lead in confronting the challenges and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels by turning to clean and recyclable energy, he added.

Since the beginning of 2007, a series of high-level international conferences have made climate change one of their key topics.

Representatives from over 180 countries adopted the Bali Roadmap on December 15 in Indonesia's resort island of Bali after two weeks of exhausting bargaining and negotiations.

The roadmap includes a clear agenda for the key issues to be negotiated up to 2009, so a pact will be ready when the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Top UN climate change official Yvo de Boer said the developed countries should take the major responsibility for the climate change and do more in curbing greenhouse gas emission.

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