Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Ice bridge collapse sparks fresh climate chan -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Reporter: Michael Vincent

PETER CAVE: Researchers say that another major ice shelf in Antarctica has shattered and is in
danger of breaking away.

Over the weekend the ice bridge linking the Wilkins Ice Shelf and two islands snapped.

Scientists and environmental campaigners say it's another example of the rapid rate of climate
change and the Obama administration agrees.

But the environmental campaigners say that despite the shared concerns, new developments are having
little impact at major climate change negotiations underway in Europe.

Michael Vincent reports.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Scientists have been watching the Wilkins Ice Shelf slowly shrink or retreat since
the late 1990s.

Now using satellites they've been able to watch in the last 72 hours the collapse of an ice bridge
linking the shelf to an island.

Neal Young is a glaciologist from the Australian Antarctic Division.

NEAL YOUNG: On the weekend that thread, that long band of ice going back from an island to the rest
of the ice shelf started to break up, and if you look at the radar images, what you see is a
shattered area of ice. And it looks like that supporting thread is now gone.

MICHAEL VINCENT: But Neal Young says this particular event won't have an immediate effect on sea

NEAL YOUNG: The ice shelf is floating on the ocean so if people are talking about, or thinking
about sea level - and see level rise. No effect on that because it's already there on the ocean.
Whether it's in solid form or liquid form, it doesn't change sea level.

What it will do is open up the front of the ice shelf, or what will become the front of the ice
shelf to further break-up.

MICHAEL VINCENT: But he says Antarctic glaciers could now melt into the Southern Ocean and raise
sea levels.

NEAL YOUNG: Removal of the ice shelves appears to take away something that held back the glaciers
that fit into them. They have been observed to speed up in some cases by several fold, even as much
as seven times.

Around the greater Antarctica area with the very big glaciers we don't expect that sort of
multiplied factor in increase in speed if the ice shelves were removed.

But we certainly expect an increase in speed and that will definitely have an impact on sea level.
And this is one of the big unknowns that was underlined in the Inter-Governmental Panel On Climate
Change report.

That there's no way we can produce reliable projections into the future, what the contribution of
the ice sheet might be on sea level, because there is no way yet that we know how to create
reliable projections of their behaviour.

These are a lot of the things we need to learn to be able to do that.

MICHAEL VINCENT: This week Washington DC will play host to an historic joint session of the
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Committee Meeting and the Arctic Council.

Already the Obama administration has acknowledged that what is taking place in Antarctica is the
consequence of climate change.

Scientists and environmentalists will be listening closely to the comments of US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton when she speaks to the meeting later today.

Dr Gilly Llewellyn is the program leader for oceans at WWF-Australia.

GILLY LLEWELLYN: Ironically, literally as those ministers are meeting we're witnessing the collapse
of ice shelves before our eyes driven by climate change impact.

MICHAEL VINCENT: What is it about this latest event that concerns you the most?

GILLY LLEWELLYN: Look the numbers are frightening, the last survey we were seeing 28 of 36 glaciers
appear to be retreating in South Georgia.

Of the 244 marine glaciers that drain the ice sheet in associated islands of the Antarctic
Peninsula; 212 of them, so that's almost 90 per cent of them have shown overall retreat since 1955.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Also underway this week - international negotiations in the German city of Bonn to
discuss the next steps in confronting climate change.

Head of campaigns for Greenpeace Australia Pacific Steve Campbell says political discussions just
aren't keeping up with events, like those in Antarctica.

STEVE CAMPBELL: The negotiations in Bonn are going far too slowly. It's clear that the science is
going much faster than the politics of the climate negotiations.

There are some targets, CO2 emission reduction targets on the table, but they are nowhere near at
the level that needs to be seen.

PETER CAVE: The head of campaigns for Greenpeace Australia Pacific Steve Campbell.