Antarctica is melting faster and further than ever before, environmental ministers meeting in Nairobi were warned in February, in a dramatic phone call direct from the frozen continent.

Famed yachtsman and explorer Sir Peter Blake called the ministers attending the United Nations Environment Program to say that he had just sailed his yacht through open water that had been frozen for hundreds of thousands of years.

The call came as representatives from 80 countries were debating about how to rescue international negotiations on global warming in the face of attempts by the U.S. and oil-producing countries to block them.

Sir Peter said, ?I am speaking from an area of water that has never been water before. It has always been frozen solid. It is uncharted. There are no depth readings on the map because no ship has ever been able to measure them. No one has ever been anywhere near where we are now.

?We have sailed for the last 100 miles through open seas in an area that in the past would only have been accessible to the biggest ice-breakers. Now it is clear water.

?Today we went to see what has happened to the King George VI ice shelf that normally fills the channel between Alexander Island and the mainland at the base of the Antarctic peninsula. We were not able to make it to the face of the ice shelf because it is dropping so much ice into the sea as it recedes. The indications are that it has receded dramatically, especially over the past 8 to 10 years. There is no question in my mind that major changes are taking place.?

The Canadian representative, Mr. Anderson, who was presiding over the Nairobi meeting, told Sir Peter, ?We are experiencing the same kind of changes in conditions in the Arctic as you are seeing in the South Pole region. We are seeing dramatic changes that affect permafrost and sea ice.?

Sir Peter replied, ?The problem has to be addressed right now, whatever the economic consequences. We are doing more harm now to the world than ever before. This is about the whole ecology of the world, which has taken hundreds of millions of years to get right. We are blowing it.?

The conversation took place after the Hague meeting in November, where nations agreed to resume talks in May. But President Bush has now asked for a further delay until July, while he develops new policies. Joe Barton, a Texan who is chairman of the House subcommittee on energy and air quality, is urging Bush to kill the treaty altogether and propose alternatives, saying that the Kyoto Treaty ?is never going to be satisfactory to the economic interests of this country.? Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is lobbying developing countries to delay the talks for a year.

Sir Peter warned that ?This must be addressed on an emergency basis. If we delay much longer it will become unstoppable, and it will be too late.?

To learn more about Sir Peter Blake, one of the world’s great adventurers and explorers,click here.

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