Polar explorer sounds alarm on climate change Polar explorer sounds alarm on climate change
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Polar explorer sounds alarm on climate change

    NHK World
    Producer
    The first signs of global warming are usually seen in extreme environments, such as the polar regions. Renowned American explorer Will Steger, the only person to have reached both poles by dogsled, has witnessed these changes over four decades.
    Will Steger has witnessed climate change in both polar regions for over 40 years.

    Steger says human activity and the environment are deeply connected on a global scale, something people seldom realize. He warns that actions that heat the globe affect the Antarctic. That, in turn, affects humans as sea levels rise.

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    Trans-Antarctica Int'l Expedition in 1989-1990 from left:Victor Boyarsky(Soviet Union), Geoff Somers(Britain), Qin Dahe(China), Jean-Louis Etienne(France), Keizo Funazu(Japan) Center: Will Steger(US)

    Steger led an international team in 1989 and 1990 on a trans-Antarctica expedition. Members from six countries (US, France, Soviet Union, Britain, China, Japan) made a record-breaking 6,400-kilometer dogsled journey across the continent. Their goal was to build international unity to protect Antarctica.

    In 2017, a huge iceberg the size of the US state of Delaware broke off from an ice shelf called Larsen C on the Antarctic Peninsula. Scientists now fear the entire shelf could destabilize and collapse. That prompted Steger's trip last year.

    His latest visit to Antarctica gave him a new sense of urgency. Approaching the peninsula by boat, he was stunned by how different things were.

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    Steger was stunned to see vast patches of rock and sand in winter on his recent trip to the Antarctic Peninsula

    The sea ice that used to cover the area 30 years ago was all gone. Instead, there was open ocean.

    There were dramatic changes to the ecosystem, too.
    The most common type of penguin, the Adelie, had significantly dropped in number. Instead, there were more flocks of Gentoos and Chinstraps, usually found in warmer areas. Steger says the penguin is a good barometer for changes in the climate. He warns that it is one example of how whole species, or millions of animals, are under threat.

    As the founder of an NPO called Climate Generation, Steger is committed to education, teaching young people about the environmental threat, and encouraging them to act. He has high hopes and faith in young people.

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    Steger and his team met with junior high school students in Tokyo.
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    He believes in the collective power of human beings to overcome climate change in the spirit of world peace, the same way he worked with his international teammates in Antarctica 30 years ago.

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    The Trans-Antarctica Expedition Team was reunited in Tokyo in November 2019.
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    Steger still works closely with the youngest team member, Keizo Funazu.

    Steger and his team gathered in Tokyo in November to urge people to take action to protect our common heritage and our future.

    They issued the following statement.

    Message to the World from Tokyo:

    In December 1989, we, the International Trans-Antarctica Expedition team, made the following statement as we stood at the South Pole half-way through our historic 4,000-mile traverse of the continent: "At the place where all the earth's meridians come together, we say to everyone that even in the most extreme circumstances and beyond our nationalities and cultures, we can make a better world through international cooperation. The spirit of Trans-Antarctica demonstrates the way.

    "Since that time, each of us has watched and spoken with a growing sense of urgency about the acceleration of Antarctica's environmental degradation, knowing that the same expedition would be impossible today because the first 200 miles of our route have melted. Now, 30 years after we stood together at the South Pole, our international team comes together once again to speak as the unofficial ambassadors of Antarctica.

    We urge the world to bring immediate attention and action toward saving this precious continent whose ice and oceans affect the health of the entire planet.

    "That is why we call the expedition's anniversary celebration in Japan. "Think South For the Next". In the next 30 years, all of us will depend on the next generation to help us minimize our use of existing sources of energy and to create new ways to produce the energy we will need in the future. We share young people's sense of urgency and we offer our encouragement and thanks. It is on their behalf that we confirm today the importance of the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997, and why we support in the strongest terms the 2017 Paris Agreement. We urge every country and every individual to commit both resources and ingenuity to reducing carbon emissions drastically by any means possible.

    "The situation is extremely urgent and the challenge is great, but there is still a path; now we must have the courage to follow it. Each of us has an important role to play-and so we urge every citizen of the world to be responsible and effective within each of our zones of influence...whoever we are, wherever we live, whatever we do...because we know that -together-we can save the world."