Watching the curiously monikered Pen Hadow issue a genuine cry for help from the Arctic via video-link this morning was a moving experience. As he sat on his sledge, wrapped in protective clothing and surrounded by ice, he simply said
“May Day, May Day. We need your help.”
As it turned out he wasn’t in peril. His cry wasn’t intended to save his soul or that of his fellow explorers. He was saying “May Day” to alert us all to the findings of the research he has been carrying out in the Arctic area. Research which shows that the levels of sea ice have fallen far below that of even the most pessimistic estimates. Where calculations previously suggested the ice might have shrunk to just 3m thick it is, in fact, barely 1m. In the summer the ice will disappear completely and in a few winters time may never reappear.
As Pen pointed out, looking at the shrinking ice caps represents one of the biggest visual signs we can get that the planet is warming (or indeed has warmed) to well beyond what any of us would consider to be a sustainable level and that it will impact on thousands of species with which we share our home, not least our fellow man.
Melting ice caps means four major things for our planet:
- We lose part of the Earth’s best methods of reflecting sunlight and heat (ice is kind of like a mirror.)
- We reduce the salinity of the sea, diluted by the fresh water in the ice, thus affecting weather.
- We raise the level of the sea by increasing the volume of water within it.
- It is an indication that other elements of our world are also going to be adversely affected (weather, agriculture, jobs, security etc. etc.)
Today’s Prince’s May Day Summit on Climate Change was about more than looking at the arctic and ice though. It was about challenging businesses to look at ways in which they are responsible for climate change across the board. I was in Edinburgh at the Scottish Business in the Community’s leg of the May Day Summit (there were events all over the UK, involving over 1,300 businesses) and we heard from a variety of excellent speakers about the issues we all face.
We also watched a live link to the London event where we heard from HRH Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) about the May Day Summit and his efforts towards expanding the network to encourage more businesses to get involved. And by getting involved it’s not enough to sign up, you have to pledge something about the way you will tackle climate change.
I made a pledge on behalf of Keep Scotland Beautiful (Waste Aware Business operates as part of KSB) to both reduce our carbon impact and encourage staff to do the same at home.
All in all it was a very interesting day and one which once again showed the need for urgent action. How many times do we need to be shown the need for urgent action? As HRH himself said “people often wait until they hit a brick wall before deciding to change direction”. The problem with climate change? The wall’s invisible and we only know it exists because of the work of people who care enough about our planet to recognise it. Now it’s up to us to make the wall appear!
To sign up to the May Day Network and be part of the solution, click here.