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TODAY’S TALK ON EDITORIALS

Adrift at sea – The Ice breakage

  • Antarctica is a climate stabilising factor, and the importance of the marine West Antarctic ice sheet was highlighted by U.S. scientists over four decades ago.

  • In the context of rising emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, a cautionary note was sounded, on warming seas hastening the melting of the shelves that hold its great mass.

  • Indeed, the point made was that except for man-made causes, there was no anticipated factor in the natural geological cycle that would disturb Antarctica.

  • The separation of an iceberg almost 6,000 sq. km in size from the Larsen C Ice Shelf shows the importance of such alarms.

  • Fortunately, newer satellite technologies, which were not available during earlier instances of iceberg calving, will help in the study of the fragile peninsular region and Antarctica as a whole.

Possible Effects

  • Among the stark effects of changes could be a shift in biodiversity: species like emperor penguins which depend on sea ice to complete their life cycle are at risk if ice cover declines.

  • Any dramatic changes will only add to the worry of irreversible effects of climate change, given that the Arctic and Greenland have also been losing ice cover.

  • Clearly, the loss of a massive portion of the Larsen C Ice Shelf marks another milestone in the evolution of this remote region. Yet, the lack of long-term data on Antarctica, as opposed to other regions, makes it difficult to arrive at sound conclusions.

Precaution

  • What is clear is that the last pristine continent should be left well alone, with a minimum of human interference, even as research efforts are intensified to study the impact of human activities in the rest of the world on this wilderness.

How Brexit has begun to unravel 

  • Questions about the viability of Brexit as the government had laid it out — in Prime Minister Theresa May’s crucial Lancaster House speech in January — emerged rapidly after the election and the government’s loss of its overall parliamentary majority.

  • With the loss of seats, and rise of Labour putting this mandate in question, many asked whether the party would be forced to soften its stance on a number of key issues, particularly given its alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which had made the issue of the open border between the two Irelands all the more important to solve. (The issue of how to keep an open border while ending the customs union is seen as one of the major practical challenges of Brexit.

Source of the questions

  • Firstly, the practical issues around Brexit — and the interpretation of the “will of the people” vis-à-vis the referendum — seem to be burgeoning rapidly, highlighted by an ongoing controversy over Britain’s membership of the European nuclear industry regulator, Euratom.

    • The government had suggested it had little option but to leave as it raised issues around jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice among other things, but legal opinion remains very divided, with many (even strident Brexiteers) suggesting that keeping Britain in Euratom remained completely viable and necessary. 

  • No deal or bad deal?

    • There’s the confusion on what the government policy on crucial areas is: for example, around the now infamous slogan of the Prime Minister that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” That negotiating position has faced widespread criticism from both within and outside Conservative Party circles, for the perception internationally that Britain’s aggressive negotiating stance was likely to be counteractive.

  • Another crucial area over which confusion reigns is the issue of the transitional period that would ease Britain’s exit for it and other member states, in particular what EU precepts or bodies would continue to be relevant over that period.

  • These issues arise at a time when economic conditions have toughened,

    • Inflation in May climbed to its highest rate in four years, 2.9%, with weakness of the pound persisting, as wages remain subdued.

    • While the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since the 1970s, the Office for National Statistics said last week that real disposable incomes were falling at their highest rate since 2011, largely as a result of inflation.

Continental shift

  • Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson scoffed at the “divorce bill”, the multibillion-pound payment that Europe believes is owed to it by Britain as it exits the union, telling MPs that the EU could “go whistle.” But his remarks were calmly rejected by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.

  • He warned that without a recognition of the payments owed by Britain, trust would be broken and there would be little chance of negotiations moving forward. “I am not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking,” he said this week.

  • With just twenty months to go till Britain is meant to leave the union, with the purported mission of “taking back control” of borders, laws, and trade, it’s potentially more of a time bomb.