One degree really does matter

Today was a day that for me, topped all days. It was the official first day of the second week of the climate negotiations and the ministers and presidents of most countries have arrived. Access to the Bella Center here in Copenhagen will be severely restricted tomorrow with over 25,000 people registered to attend. Today was sort of like the pre-game before the Superbowl. The king of kings, MVP all-star flew in on a plane and arrived at the conference today; climate champion Al Gore made his first appearance at the negotiations to supporters and doubters alike.

His first presentation came this afternoon at a side event on the melting of the Greenland ice cap. The Arctic Council put together an analysis of the melting in Greenland led by Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, called Greenland Ice Sheet in a Changing Climate which was presented at COP15. This report was unveiled by Al Gore himself with a team of panelists including Dorthe, the Danish Foreign Minister, Bob Correll, and the Norwegian Foreign Minister. The report will also be released to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change later in the conference.

I attended this side event with Will Steger, the founder of THE Will Steger Foundation and leader of our expedition, who is well acquainted with Gore. Steger worked closely with Gore in the 1980’s as he was preparing to embark on his arctic journey but found he didn’t have a method of relaying scientific information back to the community. Gore connected Will with the white papers about the internet, providing the opportunity for Steger’s expeditions to reach millions of people across the globe. Gore invited Will to testify in 1991 on the melting to the of permafrost that he had witnessed, something scientists didn’t believe was possible at the time. They continued to stay in touch throughout the 90’s working on various educational opportunities but ran into each other again in 2007 when Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. Throughout the years, Steger and Gore have both worked towards advancing scientific research and education about the effects of global warming on the arctic.

Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Per Stig Møller, opened the event by stating that he hoped this report would be the “basis for a strong, forceful message to the decision makers at this conference. The message is that the time for collective and immediate action in response to climate change is now.” Much of the rest of the event delved into disturbing details on how rapidly the sea ice is melting. The Greenland ice sheet, an ice cube three million cubic kilometers in volume, has the potential to affect the global sea level. If that all were to melt, the sea would rise 7meters. Gore emphasized that unless we reduce our emissions, the rise in temperature will only melt the glaciers faster. One degree really does make a difference.


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