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• Hello. This is 6 Minute English from

• BBC Learning English. I'm Neil.

• And I'm Georgina.

• With no end in sight to the coronavirus

• pandemic, many people can't wait for

• the year 2020 to end.

• But with the coronavirus dominating

• has moved away from an equally

• serious global issue which has

• quietly been getting worse -

• climate change.

• August 2020 saw the hottest

• temperature recorded anywhere

• in modern times - 54.4 degrees

• Celsius in California's Death Valley.

• The same month also saw record

• amounts of ice melting into the

• oceans around Greenland and the

• Arctic - huge icebergs breaking

• away from the edge of the ice

• sheet - a thick layer of ice which

• has covered a large area

• for a long time.

• Greenland's ice sheet is three

• times the size of Texas and almost

• 2 kilometres thick. Locked inside

• is enough water to raise sea levels

• by 6 metres.

• But global heating and melting

• polar ice has many scientists

• asking whether it's now too late

• to stop. Have we have reached the

• point of no return? In this programme,

• we'll looking at the effects of climate

• change on the Arctic and asking

• if it s too late to change.

• And learning some of the related

• vocabulary too. Now, Georgina,

• you mentioned record levels of

• ice melt in the North Pole but

• the scale is hard to take in. The

• amounts are so big they're

• measured in gigatonnes - that's

• a billion metric tonnes.

• Imagine a giant ice cube

• 1 kilometre by 1 kilometre

• by 1 kilometre.

• So my quiz question is this:

• how many gigatonnes of ice

• are now melting into the ocean

• every year? Is it: a) 450 gigatonnes?,

• b) 500 gigatonnes?, or

• c) 550 gigatonnes?

• I'll take a guess at b)

• 500 gigatonnes.

• OK, Georgina, we'll find out

• later. Now, glaciologist Michalea

• King has been monitoring the

• melting of Arctic ice by satellite.

• Here she is answering a question

• from BBC World Service programme,

• Science in Action, on whether the

• destruction of the ice sheet is

• now unavoidable:

• If we were to say ... define a

• tipping point as a shift from

• one stable dynamic state to

• another, this certainly meets

• that criteria, because we're

• seeing now that the ice sheet

• was more or less in balance prior

• to 2000 where the amount of ice

• being drained from the glaciers

• was approximately equal to

• what we are gaining on the

• surface via snow every year.

• Ice is made from snow falling on

• Greenland's glaciers - large,

• slow-moving masses of ice.

• At the same time though, ice is

• also lost through melting.

• These two processes of

• making and melting ice kept

• the ice level in balance - having

• different parts or elements

• arranged in the correct

• proportions. Essentially the

• melting ice was replaced

• by newly frozen ice.

• But now, the glaciers are

• shrinking faster than new ice

• is being accumulated and the

• situation may have reached

• a tipping point - the time at

• which a change or an effect

• cannot be stopped.

• So, does this mean that global

• heating and ice melting are now

• running automatically, separate

• from the amount of greenhouse

• gases humans are pumping into

• the atmosphere? And does that

• mean should just give up on

• the planet?

• In fact, the situation is far from

• simple, as Michalea King explains

• here to BBC World Service programme,

• Science in Action:

• We can definitely control the rate of

• mass loss, so it's definitely not a

• 'throw your hands up' and jus

• not do anything about it - give up

• on the ice sheet kind of situation -

• that's certainly not the message

• I want to send... but it does seem

• likely that we will continue to lose

• mass... but of course, a slow rate

• of mass loss is highly preferred

• to large annual losses every year.

• Michalea thinks that changes in

• human activity can still slow the

• rate - or speed at which something

• happens, in this case the speed of

• Greenland's ice sheet melting.

• She's convinced it's not too late

• for collective action to save the

• planet, so it's not yet time to

• 'throw your hands up' - an idiom

• meaning to show frustration and

• despair when a situation becomes

• so bad that you give up or submit.

• It's a positive message but one

• which calls for everyone to do

• what they can before it really

• is too late.

• Because the rate of ice melt is

• still increasing, right, Neil?

• Yes, that s right - in fact, that

• was my quiz question, Georgina...

• do you remember?

• Yes, you asked me how many

• gigatonnes of Greenland's ice sheet

• are now melting every year. I said

• b) 500 gigatonnes.

• And you were correct! In fact, some

• of these giant ice cubes are like

• small towns, almost a kilometre tall!

• So there's still work to be done.

• In this programme, we've been

• looking at the rate - or speed -

• of ice melt in Greenland's ice

• sheet - the thick layer of ice

• covering a large area of the Arctic.

• Previously, the melting ice was

• replaced by newly formed ice on

• glaciers - large masses of

• slow-moving ice. This kept the

• Arctic in balance having

• different elements arranged

• in proportion.

• But the effects of global

• heating have brought us

• close to a point of no return,

• called a tipping point - the

• time at which a change or an

• effect cannot be stopped.

• The situation is serious but

• there's still time to take action

• and not simply throw your

• hands up - show frustration and

• despair when you want to give up.

• That's all for this programme, but if

• you want to find out more about

• climate change and Greenland's ice

• sheets, search BBC's Science in

• Action website.

• And for more trending topics

• and useful vocabulary, remember