Climate campaigners have a name proposed for a huge iceberg researchers say is about to break off from an ice shelf in Antarctica: the #ExxonKnew Iceberg.
The calving, as the break-off is called, is happening on the Larsen C ice shelf in West Antarctica. According to the U.K.-based Project Midas, which is keeping track of the rift's progress, it could be one of the largest icebergs on record.
According to 350.org, the soon-to-be Delaware-sized iceberg presents an excellent opportunity to remind the public of Exxon's role in fueling climate change.
"With one of the world's biggest ice shelves at a breaking point, this destruction should bear the name of its greatest perpetrator: Exxon," said Aaron Packard, 350.org's Climate Impact Coordinator. "People deserve to understand the devastation of Exxon's decades of climate deception, and realize fossil fuel companies for the climate criminals they are."
The group's petition to the U.S. National Ice Center—the body that names icebergs—says the fossil fuel company "deceived the public, misled their shareholders, and robbed humanity of a generation's worth of time to reverse climate change," referring to the ExxonKnew scandal.
"We need to make sure their role in causing the climate crisis is not forgotten," says the petition, which the group says has garnered over ten thousand signatures. 350.org also posted this video to accompany the petition:
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Writing Friday, Project Midas said that "the iceberg remains attached to the shelf by a thin band of ice," adding: "When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula."
Still, "we do not need to press the panic button for Larsen C," says Helen Amanda Fricker, a glaciologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography:
Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia—on cycles that are much longer than a human or satellite lifetime.
At the same time, she noted:
There is plenty going on that merits concern: Antarctic ice shelves overall are seeing accelerated thinning, and the ice sheet is losing mass in key sectors of Antarctica.
Added Jonathan Kingslake, an assistant professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory: "Warming on the Antarctic Peninsula is linked to human activity and probably triggered the collapse of two more northerly ice shelves." Larsen A and Larsen B collapsed in 1996 and 2002, respectively, after icebergs broke off.
As Packard sees it, "The Antarctic Peninsula is a window into a distressingly plausible, not-so-distant, future where the relatively stable climate the earth has thrived on enters meltdown mode. "