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Antarctic Ice Shelf Loss Warns Against Inaction on Global Warming

WASHINGTON - Today's news that a massive Antarctic ice shelf has broken apart in less than a month sends yet another signal that governments should strengthen their efforts against global warming, said World Wildlife Fund.

UK scientists say that the 200-meter thick Larsen B ice shelf, with a surface area of 3,250 square kilometers, has broken apart in less than a month. US experts have described it as 'the largest single event in a series of retreats by shelves in the Peninsula over the last 30 years.'

"This stunning development warns of the dangers of governments doing too little to halt global warming," said Dr Lara Hansen, climate scientist for WWF. "The very minimum they must do is ratify the Kyoto climate treaty. The Kyoto treaty is currently the world's main framework for action against global warming. In the long run, science indicates that countries will need to go beyond Kyoto targets in cutting global warming pollution."

There are high hopes that the Kyoto treaty will become international law this year. The European Union made a formal decision two weeks ago to ratify Kyoto by June 1. Japan is also moving towards ratification. Much now depends on support from Russia, Japan, Canada and Poland. The United States has rejected the treaty despite being the world's largest emitter of global warming gases.

The loss of the ice shelf will reportedly not add to sea-level rise as the ice was already floating. But this would occur if the land ice moves into the sea more quickly.

"The Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated at an unexpectedly rapid rate during one of the warmest summers on record around the Antarctic Peninsula. This is consistent with the effects and predictions of global warming," said Dr Hansen. "The visibility and sheer scale of what is happening in Antarctica should provide a wake-up call to policymakers worldwide."

WWF is running a 200-day campaign to turn the Kyoto treaty into international law. Information is available at: www.panda.org/goforkyoto