26 fevereiro 2021

The tip of the Iceberg

By Carolina Vicente Cesetti

PhD candidate in Law at the University of Brasília and member of the Research Group of Law, Natural Resources and Sustainability Studies in the University of Brasilia (Portuguese acronym: GERN).

Three years ago, the photo above won the photography award of the year[1]. The beauty of it is undeniable, as the Iceberg floats so close to the continent, however, the concern about climate change is explicit in this image. The photo was taken near Ferryland, Newfoundland, Canada on April 16, 2017. Icebergs are no strangers to the region, on the contrary, from the date of the photo, in just four months, there were 616 floating ice masses in this Canadian region, while in the whole of 2016 the total accounted for was 687[2]. Ice caps, which can be originated in the Arctic, as in the photo, or Antarctica, are often related to global warming.

The South and North Pole are directly influenced by the rise in temperature on the planet. The Arctic, or North Pole, covers 21 million square kilometers, making up 65% of the Arctic Glacial Ocean. The North Pole is composed of many islands, besides the continental parts belonging to the United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Antarctica, or South Pole, is a continent covered by ice with more than 14 million square kilometers in extension, corresponding to 10% of the Planet. The South Pole is made up of islands that have immense scientific and biological importance in regulating planetary climate, as they are the regions most affected by global warming[3].

The consequences of global warming in these regions are diverse, some of the most latent and worrisome are the melting of polar glaciers in the Arctic and the Antarctica; the rising sea levels; the disappearance of island countries; the increasing of the rain pace, hurricanes and storms; the worsening of semi-arid and desert regions, represented by the lack of water; the alteration of vocation in agricultural regions; the proliferation of tropical epidemics, among many others[4].

One of the best photographs of the year 2017 is actually a reflection of climate change that strongly affects these two frozen regions of the Earth. There are studies that report the existence of a “New Arctic”,[5] that is characterized by warmer temperatures, more open water, less sea ice, more rain and less snow. This change was seen throughout the summer of 2020 in the Arctic. Therefore, since the beautiful picture of the Iceberg approaching the continent was taken, the change is constant to the point that scientists find that there is a new climate in the North Pole.

The industry focused on Iceberg tourism, whether in the Arctic or Antarctica, has an educational role that goes beyond the beautiful image that we can see. The consequences of global warming are visible worldwide, however, in the North Pole, the consequences are more dramatic since the region is heating up two to three times faster than any other region on Earth[6], ushering in far-reaching changes to the Arctic Ocean, its ecosystems and the 4 million people who live in the Arctic. The Southern Ocean is estimated to store about 75% of the global oceanic uptake of excess heat and about 35% of the global uptake of excess carbon from the atmosphere, being the main Ocean in the storage of heat and carbon for Earth[7], which affects the South Pole and its characteristics.

Analyzing this photo as just the tip of an Iceberg, in other words, just an image that can bring forward so many meanings and concerns about this relevant theme, was one of the main objectives of this brief reflection. It is possible to understand that these frozen Poles of the Globe are much closer to us than we think. They get closer to our reality as we consume more consciously and seek sustainable attitudes in our day-to-day lives. I hope that this photo does not become a mere memory for future generations of these frozen universes full of beauty and diversity that surround the Earth.

[1] Available at: accessed 22 Feb 2021

[2]Available at: accessed 22 Feb 2021.

[3] BARROS-PLATIAU, Ana Flávia. Antártica (ou Antártida). In: OLIVEIRA, Carina Costa; CESETTI, Carolina Vicente; MONTALVERNE, Tarin Frota; SILVA Solange Teles, GALINDO, George Rodrigo. Brasília, 2019. P. 13-26.

[4] MENDES, Henrique. A Efetividade do Mecanismo de Desenvolvimento Limpo (MDL) no Brasil. In: BARROS-PLATIAU, Ana Flávia; VARELLA, Marcelo. A Efetividade do Direito Internacional Ambiental. Série Direito Ambientla. Volumme 5. UniCEUB. Brasília. 2017, p. 254-272.

[5] Available at: accessed 22 Feb 2021.

[6] Available at: accessed 22 Feb 2021.

[7] Available at:  accessed 22 Feb 2021.


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