Antarctica shows need for action on climate change, Ban Ki-moon says

Ban Ki-Moon visits Antarctica

11 November 2007 – Ban Ki-moon, during his historic visit to Antarctica, the first by a United Nations Secretary-General, has said warming temperatures on the continent show the growing dangers of climate change and the need for action to address it.

“It is here where our work, together, comes into focus,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued on Friday. “We see Antarctica's beauty – and the danger global warming represents, and the urgency that we do something about it.”

The Secretary-General, who has made climate change a priority issue and is working to galvanize support for an international conference to be held in Bali in December on global commitments to stop it, said he is personally determined to push forward.

He said the landscapes on Antarctica are “rare and wonderful” but also deeply disturbing as the ice continues melting at a fast pace.

“All this may be gone, and not in the distant future, unless we act, together, now,” he warned.

“Antarctica is on the verge of a catastrophe – for the world.”

The Secretary-General offered stark figures to illustrate his point, noting that the glaciers on King George Island have shrunk by 10 per cent, while some in Admirality Bay have retreated by 25 kilometers. He also recalled how the 87-kilometer “Larsen B ice sheet” collapsed several years ago and disappeared within weeks and warned that the entire Western Antarctic Ice Shelf is at risk.

“It is all floating ice, one fifth of the entire continent. If it broke up, sea levels could rise by 6 meters or 18 feet,” he noted, pointing out that 138 tons of ice are now being lost every year.

Other “deeply worrying signs” he mentioned were the shrinking penguin population of Chabrier Rock, which has dipped by 57 per cent in the last 25 years. “What will happen to the annual march of the penguins in the future? Will there even be one?”

At the same time, grass is growing for the first time ever on King George Island, where it rains rather than snows increasingly in the summer.

“These things should alarm us all. Antarctica is a natural lab that helps us understand what is happening to our world. We must save this precious earth, including all that is here. It is a natural wonder, but above all, it is our common home,” said Mr. Ban.

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