On May 13, a team of three British adventurers measuring ice conditions in the Canadian Arctic found themselves on thin ice and asked to be airlifted out weeks before they had planned.
Pen Hadow, the leader of the Catlin Arctic Survey team, said scientists had told them they would find a mixture of new ice and the older, thicker, multi-layer ice with an average thickness of about three metres. The average thickness they found was only 1.773 metres.
In their 73-day trip that covered 434 kilometres over the frozen Arctic Ocean from northern Canada toward the North Pole, they found mosyly first-year ice that is likely to melt in summer months.
Climate change became an immediate health hazard for these three people, but that pales beside the global health hazards posed by climate change described in a new study commissioned by the Lancet medical journal and the University College London Institute for Global Health, and published in the May 16 issue of the Lancet.
Among the severe health consequences from global warming predicted were:
•Vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever and malaria, once confined to warmer areas, will move north and become more widespread as a result of increased temperatures;
•Heat waves will kill more people in more areas of the world; and
*More people living in cities will lead to a shortage of housing, leading to slums, inadequate sanitation systems and higher vulnerability to extreme weather events.
The Third World will suffer the most, the study found.
Some 70% of "natural disasters" between 2004 and 2006 occurred in Asia, the Pacific region, Africa and the Middle East, where most of the world's vulnerable and exposed populations live. But rich countries will also suffer from extreme climate events. More than 70,000 people died during a heat wave in Europe in 2003.
"We are standing at the tip of a problem — it is just like where we were with HIV 25 years ago", said Anthony Costello, the main author of the report.
This report underlines, once again, the gross irresponsibility of politicians who are determined to protect corporate profits at any cost. Climate change is a global emergency and we need immediate massive social investment into a radical shift to renewable energy and resource conservation.
There is no time for hesitation. The world as we know it hangs in the balance. We are all standing on thin ice.
Green Left Weekly is campaigning for the radical response to climate change that this global emergency demands now. Please make a donation to our fighting fund at: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Or, send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone it through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).