RUSSIA DISCOVERS FIVE ISLANDS – WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS?
– LIANNE LUCIA D SOUZA
As the world witnessed a record-high in temperatures this summer, the realization that climate change is a real and existential threat dawned upon many a skeptical soul. But the message of climate change has never been clearer than from the evidence of rising sea levels and depleting glaciers. Glaciers and ice sheets across the polar region have been melting at an alarming rate over the past few decades. From the accelerated thinning of ice sheets in Antarctica to the melting of gargantuan Himalayan ice caps, the number of climatic disasters is only increasing by the minute. If this is not devastating enough, new evidence has been uncovered in the west coast of Russia that only adds up to the climatic woes.
Recently, the Russian Navy hit solid ground by making a landmark discovery of five new islands in the Arctic region. Uncovered by melting ice, these unnamed islands were first spotted in 2016 in the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya through satellite imagery. However, the discovery was only confirmed in early days of September 2019 after a Russian expedition of sixty people set out to map the actual location of the islands. Ranging in an area of about 900 to 54,500 square meters each, the new islands are said to be located on the Franz Josef land near the Vylki glacier, off the north-western coast of the Russian mainland. This minute topographical addition has not only unveiled the region’s hidden treasures but has also transformed the regional map.
What does this discovery mean?
The newly found islands are an exemplary example of Russia’s military prowess and advancement in scientific exploration. It is undisputed the Russian navy ought to be applauded for this remarkable feat, but it goes without saying that this discovery brings with it much apprehension for climate change activists. It’s no secret that this phenomenon is a consequence of the staggering rise in global temperatures and climate change. The Vice Admiral of the Russian navy, Alexander Moiseyev also categorically stated that this revelation had much to owe to the obvious “temperature changes”. Therefore, as opposed to ‘what’ was discovered, it is rather about ‘how’ this discovery came to light that seems to create a sense of trepidation.
It has been established that melting glaciers are nothing but a direct and inevitable effect of the rise in global temperatures. Such a consequence leads to rising sea levels, which in turn increases coastal erosion and escalates the propensity of storms. Furthermore, the warming of atmospheric air and ocean temperatures creates frequent and intense coastal catastrophes like hurricanes and typhoons. The fact that these islands were uncovered due to the rapid depletion of massive glaciers brings to light the severity of climate change as a global crisis.
As the global temperature rises, the results ironically, have been chilling. Recent studies have indicated that the frozen extremities in the Arctic region, particularly in places such as Greenland and Iceland have declined due to the rapid warming of mother Earth. According to the report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change the sea level has risen globally by around 15 cm during the 20th century and is currently rising more than twice as fast – 3.6 mm per year. Furthermore, according to the WMO Statement on the state of the global climate in 2018, the Arctic average temperature was notably warm in the year 2018, with annual average temperature exceeding 2 degrees Celsius widely and 3 in some places, which is “exceptionally high relative to the long-term average”. It has also been observed that the Arctic sea-ice Arctic sea ice has declined by about 40 per cent between the years 1979 to 2018 and at the current rate of CO2 emissions, Arctic summers will be ice-free by the 2030s. This is primarily because of build-up of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) in the atmosphere which is the direct result of anthropogenic interventions in the ecological balance. Therefore, amidst this escalating climate crisis, Russia’s discovery serves as a clarion call for all nations to take positive action towards climate change mitigation.
The Way Forward
Climate change has become of the most pressing issues in this day and age. It is a global phenomenon affecting global commons in multiple dimensions. The strain that it creates on nature is very well reflected in the above incident. To view this problem merely from a parochial stand point as affecting human beings alone would be a fallacy. This perception undermines the indelible imprint that climate change creates on natural resources as well. Therefore, what is required is a paradigm shift from an anthropocentric view of the problem to that of an eco-centric one.
It is not disputed that initiatives have been taken on an international level to address the problem of climate change. Having said that, State action alone would not suffice in tackling this grave problem. Instead, what it demands is a collective fight against climate change whereby state action ultimately transpires into individual actions. It is no more a battle between those affecting and those being affected by climate change, rather it is a problem that ought to be addressed on a collective front.