by Aaron Packard, 350.org
After weeks of suspense, a gigantic iceberg has broken off the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. The US National Ice Center has called the iceberg A-68, but 10,000 people have joined us in calling for it to be named the “ExxonKnew Iceberg”.
This iceberg is big, but bigger are (very likely) on the way.
It’s big, really big, at over a trillion tons of ice, and extending to the size of the state of Delaware, or twice the size of Samoa. Scientists have suggested that while the shearing of such an iceberg is not out of the ordinary or unnatural for Antarctica, it does reflect the “general direction of climate change”, where to put it basically, things melt and break apart.
Beyond the Larsen C ice shelf, the Antarctic continent is more widely showing signs of destabilisation, with the ice sheet losing mass at an alarming pace. If this continues, we could see many more, larger icebergs calving off the continent as the ice sheet starts to slide into the ocean.
Such a gloomy prospect is not a given – it depends on just how well we do at limiting global warming. Recent research shows that the Antarctic contribution to sea level rise is close to zero for up to 1.5 degrees Celsius warming, then jumps to at least 2 metres once we pass approximately 2 degrees Celsius. Small temperature rises make a big difference.
We still have a window of opportunity, but it has nearly been jammed shut by climate denial.
To avoid passing 2 degrees, and pulling the trigger on Antarctica, governments need to succeed at keeping all known reserves of coal, oil and gas in the ground, and replace them with 100% renewable energy, coupled with energy efficiency measures. Yet action to limit climate change has been stymied by decades of climate denial funded by fossil fuel companies – as is now well documented thanks to leaked internal memos from the oil giant Exxon.
Investigative reports revealed Exxon’s own scientists warned about the dangers of fossil fuel use as far back at the 1970s. Instead of heeding the warnings, executives embarked on a decades-long and ongoing campaign to spread misinformation amongst the public, bankroll climate-denying politicians and front-groups, and block climate action at every level. Exxon is currently under investigation by two state attorneys general in the US, and is under intense public scrutiny for its continued role in knowingly perpetuating the climate crisis.
The world’s largest economies contribute $72 billion per year in public finance for fossil fuels – roughly 4 times what they give to clean energy. Fossil fuel companies have ridden the gravy train, now it’s time to hold them to account.
Naming is important.
In 2008, a British school boy won a competition to name an iceberg that had broken off Antarctica, calling it “Floating Bob”, in place of “C-19” the name it was given by the US National Ice Center. Ever since then and before then, icebergs of significant size have simply been given a name consisting of a letter and number.
Frankly, calling this iceberg A-68 doesn’t cut it, neither would calling it “Floating Bob or Judy”. People deserve to understand the deep cost of Exxon’s decades of climate deception. That’s why more than 10,000 people have petitioned the US National Ice Center to name the iceberg the ExxonKnew Iceberg.
Help make the name #ExxonKnew Iceberg stick by posting about the #ExxonKnew Iceberg on social media.
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