April 28, 2009

Play nice now children !

Ministers split over Antarctic ice shelf claims

A SPLIT over global warming has emerged in Kevin Rudd's cabinet after it was revealed that a 13-month-old photograph was published this month to support the view that a catastrophic melting of Antarctic ice was imminent.

Federal government sources said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong was disappointed with the way her ministerial colleague, Peter Garrett, weighed into the debate about global warming, claiming sea levels could rise by 6m as a result of melting in Antarctica. Senator Wong yesterday pointedly refused to indicate whether she supported Mr Garrett's view.

"The impacts of climate change are being seen in many ways, from sea level rise through to extreme weather events," Senator Wong said yesterday.

"Climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention."

Senator Wong declined to nominate potential levels to which seas could rise.

At a time when the Rudd Government is battling to salvage its emissions trading scheme, some of Mr Garrett's Labor colleagues were annoyed the Environment Minister used his responsibility for Australia's Antarctic territory to weigh into the climate change debate with exaggerated claims.

Mr Garrett claimed the break-up of the Wilkins ice shelf in West Antarctica indicated sea level rises of 6m were possible by the end of the century, and that ice was melting across the continent.

The Environment Minister later sought to distance himself from his comments.

A study released last week by the British Antarctic Survey concluded that sea ice around Antarctica had been increasing at a rate of 100,000sqkm a decade since the 1970s.
While the Antarctic Peninsula, which includes the Wilkins ice shelf and other parts of West Antarctica were experiencing warmer temperatures, ice had expanded in East Antarctica, which is four times the size of West Antarctica.

British newspaper The Observer this month published prominently a story with a photograph of breaks in the Wilkins shelf.

"A huge ice shelf in the Antarctic is in the last stages of collapse and could break up within days in the latest sign of how global warming is thought to be changing the face of the planet," the story began.

In March last year, US news agency msn published the same photograph with a similar story that began: "A vast ice shelf hanging on by a thin strip looks to be the next chunk to break off from the Antarctic Peninsula, the latest sign of global warming's impact on Earth's southernmost continent." The photograph was published by numerous other outlets, including The Australian.

A spokeswoman for the British Antarctic Survey said the photograph in both stories was taken in March last year.

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said the misuse of the photograph and the similar story lines 13 months apart reflected how the Wilkins ice shelf break-up was being recycled annually to fuel global warming concerns.

Senator Joyce said Mr Garrett's entry into the debate demonstrated how it was being hijacked by misinformation.

"We are on the edge of a possible pandemic that could cause untold misery and people are running around tilting at windmills," he said.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said Senator Wong should distance herself from Mr Garrett's comments.

Mr Garrett was defended by Australian Conservation Foundation director Don Henry.

"The minister is right to raise concerns that melting of our ice caps could lead to that kind of sea level


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