LONGYEARBYEN, Svalbard (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on world leaders on Monday to take urgent action to combat climate change for the sake of “the future of humanity.”
Ban, on a tour of Svalbard, the remote Norwegian-controlled Arctic archipelago, said the region might have no ice within 30 years if present climate trends persisted.
He is trying to drum up support for a comprehensive accord to limit emissions of greenhouse gases at a U.N. summit in Copenhagen in December. The accord will be a successor to the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.
“I would like to draw the attention (of) the world, for urgent action to be taken at Copenhagen ... We do not have much time to lose,” Ban told reporters aboard a Norwegian coastguard vessel.
Ban said he wants leaders “to agree a global deal that is comprehensive, equitable and balanced for the future of humanity and the future of planet Earth.”
The Copenhagen talks aim to agree tough limits on emissions, to keep climate change at a manageable level, and a mechanism by which technology to reduce emissions is efficiently transferred from rich to developing states.
Ban said that Arctic ice was disappearing faster than glaciers in other parts of the world, quickly removing the reflective white shield that prevents the earth’s north and south polar regions from absorbing more of the sun’s energy.
If Arctic sea ice disappears, the darker water underneath will absorb more solar energy, accelerating climate change,
“The polar ice caps are the world’s refrigerator, helping to keep us cool because they reflect so much heat,” Lars Haltbrekker, head of environmental group Friends of the Earth Norway, told Reuters.
“Some scientists believe that we are already at a tipping point, that the concentration of man-made (heat trapping) gases already in the atmosphere will melt the Arctic sea ice during the summer by 2050,” he said.
The area covered by Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest recorded level in summer 2007, increased slightly last year, and will probably be the third lowest on record this year, scientists say.
Weather permitting, on Tuesday Ban will visit a research vessel surveying the polar ice in the Arctic north of Svalbard.
Reporting by Wojciech Moskwa, editing by Tim Pearce