What To Do When A Massive Iceberg Is On The Loose

Last week, a chunk of ice about the size of four Manhattans broke off of the Petermann Glacier in northwest Greenland. Scientists have been watching Petermann for some time, because its disintegration is of serious portent.

The AP put it well: “It’s been a summer of near biblical climatic havoc across the planet, with wildfires, heat and smog in Russia and killer floods in Asia. But the moment the Petermann glacier cracked last week — creating the biggest Arctic ice island in half a century — may symbolize a warming world like no other.” (NASA has the before and after shots. Above is the after shot. You can see the wedge-shaped ice island that just went adrift on the middle right of the image.)

The article goes on to discuss how the floating ice island could be on a collision course with several offshore drilling platforms near the coast of Newfoundland. How awesome is that? These oil platforms are threatened by an on-the-loose chunk of ice of largely their own making. In reality, this is exactly what we don’t need — more that can go wrong on offshore drill platforms.

The calving of Petermann Glacier is a bad sign, to be sure, but not entirely unexpected. Scientists have been watching and monitoring cracks in the glacier for years. That’s why last summer Greenpeace sent the ship Arctic Sunrise to Greenland to serve as a platform for independent scientists studying the sensitivity of Petermann Glacier to global warming. The on-board scientists installed remote cameras and GPS devices and left the instruments behind to continue monitoring. As I type, scientists are attempting to collect the data.

Our addiction to fossil fuels is truly wreaking havoc on our planet, but our elected leaders have not seen fit to take any action, nationally or globally. As 350.org leader Bill McKibben recently pointed out, this summer, the U.S. Senate “didn’t do less than they could have — they did nothing, preserving a perfect two-decade bipartisan record of no action.”

In the same article, worth checking out in full, McKibben argues that it’s time to shame our leaders into action by getting to work ourselves. That’s why on October 10th (10/10/10), 350.org, Greenpeace, and a whole host of other coalition partners are organizing a “Global Work Party.”

“All around the country and the world, people will be putting up solar panels and digging community gardens and laying out bike paths,” McKibben writes. “Not because we can stop climate change one bike path at a time, but because we need to make a sharp political point to our leaders: we’re getting to work, what about you?”

Ready to show our elected reps how it’s done? Register a work party here.

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using data obtained from the Goddard Level 1 and Atmospheric Archive and Distribution System (LAADS).

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