The big thaw

The Athabasca Glacier, Canada

On a recent trip to Canada, I had the good fortune to visit the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield. It’s the first time I’ve been to a ‘real, live’ glacier and it was quite a buzz. Sadly, however, I saw at first hand the effects of global warming. Moving 180 degrees from the picture above, the picture below shows how far the glacier has contracted during the last forty seven years. The cars parked in the distance mark the edge of the glacier in 1958.

The Athabasca Glacier … where it used to be

By definition, glaciers melt, of course, but usually at a rate that preserves the balance of the eco-system. In Peru, the glaciers are melting so fast now that the local inhabitants fear for their future water supply. In the Arctic, meanwhile, there are mounting concerns over the rapidly disappearing Greenland glaciers as this video clip from the BBC reveals. The climate change sceptics continue to cry foul, but so compelling is the evidence, that a court in California yesterday allowed a coalition of environmental groups to sue the US government over global warming – the first time a court has recognised the potentially disastrous impact of climate change.