WEDDELL SEA, ANTARCTICA, 2005

An iceberg in the Weddell Sea, between Paulet Island and the South Shetland Islands

salgado antartica

© Sebastião Salgado

It is not just a matter for polar bears. The latest IPCC special report on oceans and ice confirms the prediction that by 2100 a third of the world's ice, and almost all of the Alpine ice will disappear, and sea level will rise by 1 metre if emissions maintain their current rhythm. The Antarctic region, one of the most severely affected by the climate crisis, is experiencing a completely abnormal season, with damage that is becoming increasingly visible, day after day. In February 2020, a new survey in Antarctica recorded a temperature of 20.75°C on Seymour Island, the highest temperature ever recorded on the continent, and satellite images of the recent calving of an iceberg more than 300 square kilometres (pretty much the size of the island of Malta) have exacerbated the daily flow of data on the dramatic speed at which the climate is redefining the features of the polar regions. The oceans and the cryosphere, the planet's icy surface, play a critical role for life on Earth. It is estimated that a total of 670 million people live in high mountainous regions today, and about 680 million people live in coastal areas, depending directly on the healthy condition of these systems.
But not only the inhabitants of mountainous or coastal regions are influenced by the state of glaciers and the consequent rising sea level. The entire global population is affected by this, directly or indirectly, in terms of availability of water, food and energy, and also transport and trade. It is furthermore feared that polar amplification will occur: as the ice melts, the ocean will absorb increasing levels of solar energy, further increasing average global temperature.

Andra Meneganzin