OSLO (Reuters) – A British explorer has kayaked to within 1,000 km (620 miles) of the North Pole to highlight a rapid shrinking of Arctic ice and put pressure on governments to do more to fight global warming.
Lewis Gordon Pugh, 38, planted flags of 192 nations on a barrier of sea ice where it eventually blocked his route north on Friday after a week-long, 135 km paddle north from the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitzbergen.
“He kayaked in freezing winds, horizontal snow showers, strong sea currents and with the constant threat of polar bears and walrus,” a statement from his team said. In normal years, there would be no open water north of Spitzbergen.
“The disappearance of this sea ice is happening considerably faster than scientific models predicted a year ago,” Pugh said in a statement after the trip. He was accompanied by a team aboard a ship where he slept.
Last September, summer sea ice around the North Pole shrank to its smallest since satellite measurements began in the 1970s, extending a trend widely blamed on global warming. The ice area is now close to matching the 2007 record.
“I am deeply concerned that policy makers are using the wrong information to inform their policy decisions. Unless world leaders appreciate the speed of change, any measures that they take will be wholly inadequate,” he said.
Most climate scientists agree the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the globe because of climate change stoked by greenhouse gas from burning fossil fuels.
Darker sea or ground soaks up far more heat than reflective ice or snow. A warming of the Arctic Ocean could in turn stoke broader climate change.
In 2007, Pugh swam 1 km (0.6 mile) across an open patch of sea at the North Pole to raise awareness of the Arctic’s fragile state.