By Britta Schmitz
PARIS, Dec. 5 – At COP21, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a side-event at the French Pavilion supported by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “Seeing is believing – believing demands action: A message from the Arctic” invited Ban Ki-moon, various scientists and youth representatives to speak at the event and raise awareness towards climate changes in the Arctic region.
Members of the expedition “Mission Arctic” spoke about their observations made between January and June 2015, screened a film and the Norwegian Polar Institute gave scientific background information on recent findings.
240 kilometers away from land members of the expedition set up their camp to explore the impacts of climate change. Four 13 year old Norwegian children joined “Mission Arctic” and skied to the North Pole to witness climate change first hand and open people’s eyes on behalf of all the children around the world.
“Earlier this year we skied to the North Pole as the youngest expedition ever. We trained hard for a year, physically and mentally,” one of the young scientists said at the event.
“They were flown in with a helicopter, landed on the boat, it was full of scientists, so we had to make room for them. And then they visited scientists and did science projects with them for about a short week and then they flew off again,” project leader Dr. Harald Steen from the Norwegian Polar Institute told Europa Newswire.
The young scientists experienced drifting which is one of the indicators of a changing climate. The Arctic is losing 12 percent of ice per decade and has already lost almost 40 percent of ice over the past three decades.
“One day it was so stormy that we had to stay in our tent for 32 hours and that day we drifted about 16 kilometers and this extreme drift is a consequence of the thinner ice on the Arctic ocean,” another young scientist said.
Borge Brende, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, explained that temperatures in the Arctic are rising two to three times faster than the global average.
“As the Secretary General I have met almost all the leaders around the world. And I have seen so many leaders gathered in one place. But not 150 Presidents, Kings, Prime Ministers in one day, in one place, in one country,” Ban Ki-moon said at this event. “It means they are committed, they know that we have to have this agreement, we cannot leave Paris without the robust, universal agreement. That’s our strong commitment.”
The Arctic is the cooling system of our planet and the melting of Arctic ice accelerates global warming. It is a major global security threat. The Arctic region is a good indicator of the impacts of climate change, making changes more visible, for example through small glaciers which respond to changes within five to ten years. Ban Ki-moon used the event to speak about the urgency of the climate agreement which is about to be signed in Paris.
“The INDCs submitted by 86 countries, 86 countries as of today, cover almost 100 percent of global emissions,” Ban Ki-moon added. “This is a very decisive turning point. We can make it happen by 2030. I’m sure that we can put an end to global poverty, we can have all those Sustainable Development Goals which were adapted two months away at the United Nations implemented.”
The four children who joined the expedition held a joint speech at the side-event. “Do you want to see your own grand-children as climate refugees? I don’t think so. Stop just drinking coffee and talking about it. The world needs action,” one of them said.
“We saw a different ecosystem which is caused by lack of silicon, we saw kind of an ‘Antarctification’ we could say. We saw elements or patterns that they normally see in the Antarctic which has an annual sea ice cup,” Steen said. “More and more ice is melting and the winter ice is still pretty much the same. So there are huge areas which are covered with ice and then it melts off again. So we are moving towards an annual ice coming system. … We saw some unexpected signs and it kind of goes in that way that it looks more like the Antarctic,” Dr. Harald Steen summarized his observations for Europa Newswire.
Photos by: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe