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UP TO one-third of all Antarctic sea ice is likely to melt by the end of the century, seriously contributing to dangerous sea level rises, updated scientific modelling on global warming shows.
The evidence will be presented to an international meeting of Antarctic and Arctic scientists in the US tonight, at which US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will speak.
The modelling is the first release of a landmark study being conducted by the global scientific body the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, made up of the peak scientific bodies from 23 countries including Australia.
The report, Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment, is the result of research undertaken by all 23 nations, the first time such a study has been undertaken. The final report will be released in June.
The early numbers put out by SCAR suggests the collapse of Antarctic sea-ice not only pushes up anticipated sea level rises but will threaten the numbers of native animal species including emperor penguins, humpback whales and several fish species.
The initial release of research also suggests sea temperatures in the Southern Ocean are rising faster than in other oceans, and that ice melts in the Antarctic Peninsula and Western Ice Shelf will be greater and more rapid than expected.
Responding to the release of the executive summary of the SCAR report, the WWF manager for Antarctic and Southern Oceans Initiative, Rob Nicoll, said the evidence was showing how quickly the effects of global warming were showing up in the Antarctic region.
"Ice shelves the size of small countries are crumbling away and the latest evidence from the Antarctic is showing that the effects of global warming there are increasing in magnitude," Mr Nicoll said.
The report shows that the Antarctic Peninsula alone has decreased by 27,000 square kilometres in the past 50 years.
But the SCAR report will show that despite a warming of the Antarctic oceans, there is little expectation of high temperature rises across the Antarctic mainland — which means that limited melting is anticipated around the South Pole.
The new research comes as international negotiations continue in the German city of Bonn towards a global climate change agreement.
Last night a spokeswoman for Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said that, despite the slow progress, Australia believed significant steps could be made towards a global agreement during the talks.
"Australia would like the Bonn negotiations to provide greater clarity on the ambition of parties (countries), prior to the chairs preparing draft negotiating texts for the June meeting," she said.
A final agreement is scheduled to be reached in talks in Copenhagen in December.