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The leader of the United Nations visits Antarctica, which is melting quickly, in preparation for the COP28 climate negotiations.
Science & Health

The leader of the United Nations visits Antarctica, which is melting quickly, in preparation for the COP28 climate negotiations.

Prior to the COP28 climate negotiations, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres traveled to the frigid but rapidly thawing Antarctica and emphasized the urgency for decisive measures to be taken at the event, where nations will discuss their plans for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

On Thursday, Guterres expressed concern about the rapid and destructive pace of ice melting in Antarctica, often referred to as a “slumbering behemoth.”

He stated that Antarctica is becoming active and the global community must also become alert.

Guterres recently embarked on a three-day trip to Antarctica for official purposes. During his visit, Chilean President Gabriel Boric accompanied him to the Eduardo Frei Air Force Base on King George Island in Chile.

Chile's President Gabriel Boric, center right, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sit on a boat at King George Island, South Shetlands, Antarctica, Nov. 23, 2023.

On November 23, 2023, Chile’s leader, Gabriel Boric, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were seen sitting on a boat at King George Island in Antarctica.

Guterres had plans to travel by boat to the Collins and Nelson glaciers.

He described the U.N. climate change conference that begins in Dubai next week as an opportunity for nations to “decide the phase-out of fossil fuels in an adequate time frame” to prevent the world from warming 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures.

Guterres stated that the COP28 conference presents an opportunity for countries to pledge to further develop renewable energy initiatives and enhance the energy efficiency of current systems and technologies.

The leader of the United Nations also expressed his belief that Sultan al-Jaber, the president of the upcoming climate conference and leader of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, holds a greater responsibility in promoting investments in clean energy within the fossil fuel industry due to his connections with the sector.

Guterres stated that it is crucial for him to communicate with those accountable in the fossil fuel sector, particularly the oil and gas industry, which is excessively profiting globally. He emphasized the need to utilize these profits instead of further investing in fossil fuels.

The rising temperatures of the atmosphere and the ocean are resulting in the melting of ice in Antarctica. This frozen landmass plays a crucial part in maintaining Earth’s climate by reflecting sunlight and influencing important ocean currents.

Scientists and environmentalists have been monitoring the West Antarctic Ice Sheet for many years as a significant measure of global warming. According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change, the ice sheet will now inevitably melt due to increased warming, regardless of efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

According to the primary researcher, Kaitlin Naughten, the melting of ice in Antarctica’s most vulnerable regions could result in a rise of approximately 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) in global sea levels within the next several hundred years.

Last month, a different study released in Science Advances revealed that approximately 50 ice shelves in Antarctica have decreased in size by at least 30% since 1997. Additionally, 28 of these ice shelves have lost over half of their ice within this relatively brief time frame.