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'We are not being listened to': Scientists' lament over melting Antarctica

'We are not being listened to': Scientists' lament over melting Antarctica

For the third year in a row, ice levels in Antarctica have reached a record low, but the disastrous consequences of this situation “don’t seem to matter to the world’s population,” laments geologist Miguel Ángel de Pablo: “Scientists, they don’t care.” Listen to us.”

“Teams studying Antarctic glaciers are seeing a widespread acceleration in glacier mass loss […] This leads to an imbalance and the glaciers lose their size “much more quickly,” according to what the Spanish geologist told AFP on Livingstone Island, about a thousand kilometers from the coast of southern Chile.

Mr. de Pablo, a professor at the University of Alcalá in Madrid, has been studying the properties of permafrost in Antarctica for 16 years, which has been affected by the climate crisis caused by massive emissions of greenhouse gases.

“The problem is that it is not easy to recover from these damages. Even if we stop everything today, if we change the pace of our lives in Western societies, tomorrow the glaciers will not stop deteriorating, we will not lose the permafrost and the ecosystems will not be affected,” he said, expressing his “deep concern.” “.

“We may be doubling down on warnings to make society aware of what is happening, but it seems to me that we scientists are not being heard, that we are raising concerns, when that is not the reality, we are simply saying what we say.” “We see,” adds the researcher at this island complex in South Shetland on the Antarctic Peninsula.

During the last three months of February, during the Australian summer, the extent of the ice on the White Continent was less than 2 million square kilometers, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center. Unprecedented encrypted data The institute confirms that “since August 2016, the trend in the extent of Antarctic sea ice has declined sharply almost every month.”

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“There is a general acceleration in the loss of mass from the glaciers,” Mr. de Pablo says next to Spain's Juan Carlos I base, on a black sand beach surrounded by numerous blocks of ice floating on the sea.

He added: “We find thin icebergs that are simply the result of the disintegration of ice that forms in winter, which is not a cause for concern and is normal. “The problem is when you find big icebergs, because that indicates that the ice shelf is breaking up.”

“Thinking about future generations”

For some scientists, satellite observations of Antarctica are not enough to determine with certainty the relationship between global warming and melting ice on this side of the continent, as is the case in the Arctic.

But for Mr. de Pablo, the main reason is “global warming.” “It heats up some of the ice on the surface […] And so are the oceans. If the waters were warmer, Antarctica's glaciers would “warm up underneath and melt much faster.”

According to a study conducted by the European Space Agency published in October 2023, about 40% of the floating ice on the White Continent has witnessed a “significant” decrease in volume over the past 25 years.

Mr. de Pablo points out that this phenomenon has “impacts” such as sea level rise, changes in ocean salinity due to the introduction of fresh water and changing temperatures.

“We influence currents and how the oceans regulate climate. So, even though we are far from any inhabited part of the planet, what happens in Antarctica actually affects everything in the rest of the world,” he insists.

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To combat global warming, experts recommend reducing the use of fossil fuels, encouraging renewable energies, ending deforestation, recycling, and taking care of water.

“We have to ask ourselves whether the rhythms of life and the way we live every day are really worth it, because at the end of the day we will lose the planet, there will be no second planet, and we have to think about our future, our grandchildren and the next generations.”