CO2 rise heightens concern over vulnerability of polar regions

The news that global concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) increased last year has heightened concern about the vulnerability of polar regions amongst scientists managing International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2008. IPY is co-sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“The rise in global concentrations of CO2 and nitrous oxide (N2O) over the past few decades will continue to stoke global warming, which has a pronounced effect in polar regions,” says Dr David Carlson, Director of the International Polar Programme Office that oversees IPY.

“IPY next year, and the associated launch of hundreds of scientific research projects focussed on polar conditions and polar ecosystems comes none too soon.

“The scientific community stands ready to respond to the imperative to gather as much data about the effects of global warming on polar areas as quickly as possible – changes in these regions will have a massive influence on the well-being of the rest of the planet.”

On Friday, WMO released its 2005 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin showing that global concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide were up 0.53 per cent on 2004. N2O, another greenhouse gas, also increased 0.19 per cent year on year.

Atmospheric CO2 – one of the principal forces behind global warming – has seen a 35.4 per cent rise since the late 1700s, a state of affairs aggravated by worldwide deforestation.

The 3rd Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment of the Climate (2001) predicted a worldwide rise in sea levels of between 9 cm and 88 cm by the end of the century – largely triggered by melting ice sheets in the polar regions.

The launch of IPY 2007-2008 on March 1 next year will mark the onset of an internationally coordinated campaign of research in both polar regions, recognizing their critical link with the rest of the globe.

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