Melting Moments


The closest I've ever been to either pole was a quick-fire press trip a couple of years ago to two ski resorts north of the Arctic Circle in Finland. I saw the northern lights, which was a real buzz, but as polar experiences go, it didn't really make the grade. But if I want to see the Arctic or Antarctic in anything like their present form--and I most certainly do--it looks as though I had better go soon.

The effects of global warming are being felt disproportionately at the poles. Temperatures are increasing more rapidly there than pretty much anywhere else on the planet, and as ice is such a central feature of the environment at both poles, rising temperatures are obviously bad news. Bad news that seems to keep getting worse. It feels as though barely a week goes by without a new prognosis for the increasingly imminent demise of some polar feature or another, whether it's an ice sheet or a penguin species.

But the bad news doesn't stop there. The Earth is a closed system: play around with one part of it and it affects other parts. …

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