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Learning English - Words in the News
30 January, 2006 - Published 16:36 GMT
Climate change warning
Image of polar ice
Polar ice

Scientists advising the British government have given a warning about the melting of the Greenland ice cap. A report by the Department for Environment says many of the risks associated with climate change are more serious than previously thought. This report from Roger Harrabin:

Listen to the story

The ice cap on Greenland holds a tenth of the world's fresh water. It's more than a mile thick and if it melts it will slowly raise sea level round the world.

Recently the ice has been shrinking at the edges as the local climate warms. Scientists would be even more disturbed if the ice in the middle melted.

Today's document is an edited and peer-reviewed report of a government-sponsored conference last year. It warns that the tipping point beyond which the cap may begin to thaw is estimated to be a global temperature rise of two degrees celsius. It says that to be relatively certain of avoiding this sort of warming we should keep emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon-dioxide below 400 parts per million in the atmosphere.

The government's chief scientist Sir David King told the BBC that target was highly desirable but politically unfeasible because it would mean turning power stations off. The lowest realistic figure for halting emissions, he said, was 550 parts per million. But today's report makes it plain that that's well above the predicted melting point of the ice cap. The scientific advice on emissions, says Professor King, is that we shouldn't be where we are.

Roger Harrabin, BBC

Listen to the words

ice cap
layer of permanent ice

raise sea level
increase the height of the ocean

becoming smaller

read and judged by other scientists

tipping point
critical temperature change (in this context)

a global temperature rise
an increase of the world's temperature

the release into the air

politically unfeasible
governments would not want to do this

realistic figure
amount that could be achieved

we shouldn't be where we are
the situation is not satifactory

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