Unprecedented warming, melting forces Arctic tourist evacuation

If the 21 tourists evacuated from the Baffin Islands yesterday weren't convinced that we're near a climate change tipping point they are now.

According to a Canwest new service story out this morning the tourists were evacuated from the Auyuittuq National Park:

"Thawing permafrost, eroding lakeshores, a melting glacier and fears of flash floods at a national park on Baffin Island have forced the evacuation of 21 tourists and led officials to declare much of the wilderness reserve off-limits until geologists and ice experts can assess what appear to be the latest dramatic effects of climate change in Canada's Arctic."

Canada Parks official Pauline Scot said, "this summer's events are beyond anything we're used to. This is no doubt a result of climate change."

With a report about the break-up of the Arctic's Ward Hunt Ice Shelf earlier this week and reports a few weeks ago about the further disintegration of the massive Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica, I'll say it again... something isn't right at the Poles.

You would think by now that such events would've gone past being something more than just quirky news stories to read with our Starbucks. The signs from the poles are a chorus of calls to action, reasons to demand action now from government and industry to clean up their act - to put in place tough regulations on the greenhouse gas we're pumping into the air.

How much more disturbing do the headlines need to be?

As an explorer I've experienced firsthand the freakish effects of a warming planet in the South Pole and this type of news hits home for me. Maybe the answer is that people need to feel the effects of climate change on their doorstep before they will understand the seriousness of the situation we're facing.

Unfortunately, if we wait for everyone to be hit right between the eyes, I'm afraid it'll probably be too late.

On November 8, 2008 Todd will attempt to become the first American in history to reach the South Pole, solo and unaided.