Why Antarctica will soon be the only place to live - literally

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor

02 May 2004

Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by
the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked, the
Government's chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, said last

He said the Earth was entering the "first hot period" for 60 million
years, when there was no ice on the planet and "the rest of the globe
could not sustain human life". The warning - one of the starkest
delivered by a top scientist - comes as ministers decide next week
whether to weaken measures to cut the pollution that causes climate
change, even though Tony Blair last week described the situation as
"very, very critical indeed".

The Prime Minister - who was launching a new alliance of governments,
businesses and pressure groups to tackle global warming - added that
he could not think of "any bigger long-term question facing the world

Yet the Government is considering relaxing limits on emissions by
industry under an EU scheme on Tuesday.

Sir David said that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - the
main "green-house gas" causing climate change - were already 50 per
cent higher than at any time in the past 420,000 years. The last time
they were at this level - 379 parts per million - was 60 million
years ago during a rapid period of global warming, he said. Levels
soared to 1,000 parts per million, causing a massive reduction of

"No ice was left on Earth. Antarctica was the best place for mammals
to live, and the rest of the world would not sustain human life," he

Sir David warned that if the world did not curb its burning of fossil
fuels "we will reach that level by 2100".