Two weeks ago, I visited the Arctic. I saw the remains of a glacier that just a few years ago was a majestic mass of ice. It had collapsed. Not slowly melted “” collapsed. I traveled nine hours by ship from the world’s northernmost settlement to reach the polar ice rim. In just a few years, the same ship may be able to sail unimpeded all the way to the North Pole. The Arctic could be virtually ice-free by 2030.
Scientists told me their sobering findings. The Arctic is our canary in the coal mine for climate impacts that will affect us all.
I was alarmed by the rapid pace of change there. Worse still, changes in the Arctic are now accelerating global warming. Thawing permafrost is releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Melting ice in Greenland threatens to raise sea levels.
Meanwhile, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
I am therefore all the more convinced we must act “” now.
To that end, on Sept. 22 I am convening a special summit on climate change at the United Nations for some 100 world leaders “” history’s largest-ever such gathering of heads of state and government. Their collective challenge: transform the climate crisis into an opportunity for safer, cleaner, sustainable green growth for all.
The key is Copenhagen, where governments will gather to negotiate a new global climate agreement in December.
I will have a simple message to convey to leaders: The world needs you to actively push for a fair, effective and ambitious deal in Copenhagen. Fail to act, and we will count the cost for generations to come.
Climate change is the preeminent geopolitical issue of our time. It rewrites the global equation for development, peace and prosperity. It threatens markets, economies and development gains. It can deplete food and water supplies, provoke conflict and migration, destabilize fragile societies and even topple governments.
What is needed is political will at the highest levels “” presidents and prime ministers “” that translates into rapid progress in the negotiating room. It requires more trust among nations, more imagination, ambition and cooperation.
I expect leaders to roll up their sleeves and speak with “” not past “” each other. I expect them to intensify efforts to resolve the key political issues that have so far slowed global negotiations to a glacial pace. Ironically, that expression “” until recently “” connoted slowness. But the glaciers I saw a few weeks ago in the Arctic are melting faster than human progress to preserve them.