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ENVIRONMENT

Greenland ice cap lost enough water in 20 years to cover US, Danish study finds

Greenland's immense ice sheet has lost enough ice in the past 20 years to submerge the entire United States in half a metre of water, according to data released this week by Danish researchers.

Since measurements began in 2002, the Greenland ice sheet has lost about 4,700 billion tonnes of ice, according to Polar Portal, a joint project involving several Danish Arctic research institutes.
Since measurements began in 2002, the Greenland ice sheet has lost about 4,700 billion tonnes of ice, according to Polar Portal, a joint project involving several Danish Arctic research institutes. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The climate is warming faster in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet and melting ice from Greenland is now the main factor in the rise in the Earth’s oceans, according to NASA.

Since measurements began in 2002, the Greenland ice sheet has lost about 4,700 billion tonnes of ice, said Polar Portal, a joint project involving several Danish Arctic research institutes.

This represents 4,700 cubic kilometres of melted water — “enough to cover the entire US by half a meter” — and has contributed 1.2 centimetres to sea level rise, the Arctic monitoring website added.

Polar Portal’s findings are based on satellite imagery from the US-German GRACE programme (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), which showed the ice melt to be most severe near the coasts of the Arctic territory, at the edge of the ice sheet. 

In these peripheral zones, “independent observations also indicate that the ice is thinning, that the glacier fronts are retreating in fjords and on land, and that there is a greater degree of melting from the surface of the ice”, the website said.

The west coast of Greenland is particularly affected, according to the data. 

Climate change is particularly alarming in the Arctic, which scientists say is warming at a rate three to four times the global average.

According to a study published by NASA in late January, the accelerated melting near Greenland’s coasts can be explained by the warming of the Arctic Ocean. 

The phenomenon “is melting Greenland’s glaciers at least as much as warm air is melting them from above”.

Melting ice from Greenland is currently the main factor in the rise in the Earth’s oceans and the territory’s glaciers are now retreating six to seven times faster than they were 25 years ago, the US agency added.

According to climate scientists, the Greenland ice sheet contains enough water to raise the oceans by more than seven metres, and the ice sheet in Antarctica contains enough for a rise of almost 50 metres. 

Arctic sea ice cover, although its melting has no effect on sea levels, has also shrunk considerably, losing almost 13 percent of its average surface area every 10 years.

READ ALSO: Heatwave causes massive melt of Greenland ice sheet

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FARMING

Danish agricultural sector softens stance on emissions tax 

After years of firm opposition to any carbon tax on agriculture, the Danish Agriculture & Food Council (Landbrug & Fødevarer) interest organisation is changing tact on a likely tax on CO2 emissions in the sector.

Danish agricultural sector softens stance on emissions tax 

The organisation is to shift strategy from strongly opposing the tax to participating “constructively within negotiations” on a green agricultural tax reform, newspaper Berlingske reports. 

Despite the organisation’s change in stance, its chairperson Søren Søndergaard said he still maintains that taxing agriculture based on CO2 emissions is not sensible climate politics.

“But there has now been an election and there are [ongoing] negotiations to form a government. We can see that the parties that are close to the negotiations all want a CO2 tax on agriculture,” he told Berlingske.

The Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC) therefore wants a seat at the table when the rules –which it accepts are coming — are set.

It has proposed five principles for reform. According to Berlingske, the principles strongly resemble the organisation’s longstanding arguments against a CO2 tax.

READ ALSO: Denmark proposes uniform CO2 tax for most businesses

Among its principles, DAFC wants to retain the 2021 reduction targets at 5 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030. Politicians are considered likely to push for a more ambitious schedule.

Other items on the organisation’s wishlist are measures to protect competitiveness and relocation of jobs; and a promise that funds collected from a CO2 tax will be reinvested in the food industry. It also wants incentives for farmers and companies.

The Liberal (Venstre) party, which could be part of a future government, was previously against the CO2 tax but has also changed its position.

“You can argue against a tax but you will not win,” Liberal leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen told Danish Agriculture & Food Council representative earlier this month.

“It will happen, because there is a majority behind it,” he said. 

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