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Ministers confront reality of climate change

Greenland conference 'a watershed'

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Ministers visiting Greenland on a climate change fact-finding mission have heard that the Ilulissat glacier, a UN heritage site, has shrunk by more than 10km in the last three years. The glacier had been relatively stable in size since the 1960's.

Environmental scientists describe the diminishing glacier as "one of the most striking examples of climate change in the Arctic".

Robert Corell, a senior fellow at the American Meteorological Society told news agency AFP: "We can't find any more concrete example of Arctic warming, which is twice as fast as in any other part of the world."

Greenpeace measures a melt lake. Image: Greenpeace

Last November, Corell, along with 250 other scientists, published the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, a 1,400-page report which warned that the Arctic could be ice free during the summers less than a century from now.

The meeting in Greenland was set up by the Danes to give ministers an open forum to debate the issues around climate change. Danish environment minister Connie Hedegaard said that the meeting had built on agreements made at the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

South African environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told reporters that South Africa now accepted it had a role to play in fighting climate change. He told the BBC that until now, developing countries didn't really see how reducing emissions was in their best interests, but that a watershed had been crossed at the conference.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace has issued new images (above) of melt-lakes forming on the Greenland ice-sheet. It warns that these are "another canary in the coal mine" of climate change, and says urgent action must be taken to respond to the problem. ®

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