Science Museum holds exhibition on polar crisis
The pressing issue of global warming and the importance of preserving the environment for future generations are displayed in an exhibition entitled "Polar Crisis - Climate Change" at the Hong Kong Science Museum from today (May 16) until November 4.
Jointly organised by the Science Museum and the Polar Museum Foundation, the exhibition displays 100 photos taken at the Three Poles, a huge snowfield model and polar expedition gear including a sled, heat-preserving clothing and a research balloon, as well as specimens and rock samples collected from the Arctic and the Antarctic. It also features a documentary video on the "Third Chinese Arctic Research Expedition' taken by the founder of the Polar Museum Foundation Dr Rebecca Lee and the national flag hoisted in Antarctica.
Improper usage and wastage of natural resources by mankind have upset the ecological equilibrium with deforestation and over-exploitation of land and groundwater. Rapid industrialisation has contaminated the earth with chemicals, polluted water and exhaust gas. All these factors accelerate global warming. In the last decade, the average annual ratio of carbon dioxide was 1.8/1,000,000, but in recent years it has increased to 3/1,000,000.
The highest peak on Earth, Mount Everest, the icy world of the North Pole and the ancient continent of the South Pole are known as the Three Poles. The poles were once the least polluted places on earth. Ice, snow and sediments in these three places have preserved the most precise and continuous records of environmental change over millions of years.
Recently, the North Pole's icecap has shrunk substantially due to global warming. Plants have even started to grow in some inland areas which were once covered permanently with ice. The ice sheet at the South Pole also has started to crack, and the speed and severity of ice melt are on the increase. Through the atmosphere and circulation of oceanic currents, climatic changes at the poles have a direct influence on the global climate. Changes in the bipolar ice sheets have a direct impact on the sea level on a global scale.
The ice and snow at the extremely high Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are not only the lifeblood of the arid zones in northwest China, but also the major source of water for many major rivers in Asia. However, studies show that the volume of ice and snow on Mount Everest is declining year after year, posing a serious threat to the water supply in these regions. If glaciers continue to melt at this speed, two-thirds of glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau will disappear by 2050. This means that two-thirds of water sources will be lost.
Not only mankind, but also the animals living in the Three Poles are affected by the weather changes. Should current trends continue, animal habitats on land will decrease inexorably. It is estimated that the number of polar bears will fall to one-third of the current population in the next 50 years. The Antarctic is home to more than 100 million penguins, accounting for one-tenth of the total number of seabirds in the world. Because of the accelerated melting of the ice layer, the survival of many wild animals including penguins is on the brink, facing a real and deadly threat.
To better understand the impact of climatic and environmental change as well as man-made pollution, many countries have sent scientists to the Three Poles to conduct long-term scientific and technological research. Through continuous and regular investigation, scientists can obtain data for analysis of the climate, environment and resources in the Three Poles and verify their theories, which help promote education on the environment and science.
For our own benefit and that of future generations, people should start to protect the environment and care for nature, make good use of science and take remedial and rational action to create a better home in harmony with nature.
The Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. It opens from 1pm to 9pm from Monday to Wednesday and on Fridays, and from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $25 with half-price concession for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For details of the exhibition, visit the Science Museum's website at http://hk.science.museum/ . For enquiries, please call 2732 3232.
Ends/Saturday, May 16, 2009
Global warming has speeded up the melting of ice in the Antarctic. If all the ice covering the Antarctic continent melted, the sea level would rise 60 metres. This will cause catastrophic floods that may affect an area of up to 20 million square kilometres.
Should the current trend of ice melt continue, animal habitats on land will decrease. It is estimated that the number of polar bears will fall to one-third of its current population in the next 50 years.
The changing of seasons at the poles determines the forming and melting of sea ice, which will have a direct impact on human activities and biological habitats.
For more than a decade, the Polar Museum Foundation has organised scientific expeditions and helped Hong Kong people, including scientists, students, eminent figures in the industrial, commercial and performing arts sectors, to journey to Antarctica. It is expected that through the influence of such participants, public awareness of polar scientific research and the importance of environmental protection will be aroused.