ecostory 19-2004 - Communicating catastrophe or what?

What is the purpose of this message?...

"Global warming could lead to a greener Greenland"

Release date: 08/04/2004

Image of GreenlandResearch published in Nature suggests that enough greenhouse gases could be in the atmosphere as early as 2050 to melt the massive ice-sheet that covers Greenland. As a result, sea levels could rise by around seven metres over the next 1,000 years.

Along with colleagues in Belgium and Germany, Dr Jonathan Gregory, of the Centre for Global Atmospheric Modelling (CGAM) at the University of Reading and the Met Office Hadley Centre, has estimated that Greenland is likely to pass a threshold of warming beyond which the ice sheet cannot be sustained unless much greater reductions are made in emissions of greenhouse gases.

The researchers looked at how Greenlandís temperature could change with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations over the next 350 years, and found that warming was likely to pass the critical threshold in 34 out of 35 model calculations.

Greenlandís average temperature only needs to increase by 3 degrees Celsius to melt its ice-sheet, but some of the modelling studies forecast an 8 degrees Celsius rise by the year 2350.

"Without the ice-sheet, the climate of Greenland would be greatly altered," says Dr Gregory. "Unlike the ice on the Arctic Ocean, much of which melts and reforms each year, the Greenland ice-sheet might not re-grow even if the global climate were returned to pre-industrial conditions."


For further information, please contact Dr Jonathan Gregory on +44 (0)118 378 7376 or email:
Alternatively, contact Craig Hillsley, Press Officer, University of Reading, on +44 (0)118 378 7388 or email:

Notes for editors

-The research was done in collaboration with Philippe Huybrechts, Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany, and the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, along with Sarah Raper, also at AWI.

About CGAM
CGAM carries out climate research and supports atmospheric scientists in the UK academic sector. It is fully integrated in the University of Readingís Department of Meteorology, the UKís premier department, which was again awarded the highest 5* rating in the latest Research Assessment Exercise.

Page last updated 08 April 2004

Well, spontaneous as I can be, I sent the below email to the University of Reading's Press department.

Good morning,

For obscure reasons I landed on the University of Reading home page and I was struck by the Press release with the title "Global warming could lead to a greener Greenland".

This title sounds so nice! Its original title in Nature however is "Climatology: Threatened loss of the Greenland ice-sheet".

Now, Mrs. Rayner, why is it that you are trying to embellish things? Will this lead to more students and more funding for your University? If that is the case, then one must seriously ask what is more important, the correct account of events or publicity.

Many people read head lines only and a greener Greenland does not sound half as threatening as sea level rise of seven meters that will inundate much of England, even if this would be 350 to 1000 years in the future.

I would like to remind us of the fact that our written history goes back some 5500 years. Thus 350 years is not so very far away - only 14 generations of 25 years each.

I believe the communication of the climatological and other ecological messages is crucial to the benefits that they may have to survival of our species homo sapiens sapiens.

Communication specialists agree that messages must be hard hitting and immediate and repetitive, before practical consequences in everyday life can occur.

Actually, climate change is already happening and it is unstoppable for two reasons:
1. We continue to discharge greenhouse gases into our atmosphere
2. The greenhouse gases that are in the atmosphere can never be sequestered to the extent and in the short period of time necessary. We are releasing these gases in one millionth of the time that has been required in a far away past to accumulate in fossil fuel deposits.

As I write this I wonder what we then can and should do to avert catastrophe, apart from dramatically reducing our lifestyles to pre-industrial age levels (which we will be forced to do anyway once fossil fuels run out).

Maybe we should start a UN programme for population reduction and resettlement to areas that will not be inundated by rising sea levels and that will also be safe from inundations because of heavy rainfalls and the ensuing floodings.

I have possibly shocked you, Mrs Rayner, but don't take it too personal. My remarks are addressed to all and you happened to be in the front line.

And, by the way, the USA administration has recently published a study that says climate change could also lead to a very sudden new ice age. You may read the editorial of The Ecologist on that issue on my page "Apocalypse Now"

With kind regards ... Helmut Lubbers (18 April 2004)

Press release at University of Reading
Article in Nature
contact Craig Hillsley, Press Officer, University of Reading, on +44 (0)118 378 7388 or email: to ask why "Greenland could become Greener" rather than "Greenland research forbodes a real catastrophy" or similar more realistic title.
What do you think?

Update 22 Sept 2007: The Press Release is now here:
I did not get a reply from the gentlemen.

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