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Test 1 / 25

Arctic ice management

Physicist Steven Desch has come up with a novel solution to the problems that now beset the Arctic. He and a team of colleagues from Arizona State University want to replenish the region’s shrinking sea ice by building 10 million wind-powered pumps over the Arctic ice cap. In winter, these would be used to pump water to the surface of the ice where it would freeze, thickening the cap.

The pumps could add an extra metre of sea ice to the Arctic’s current layer, Desch argues. The current cap rarely exceeds 2-3 metres in thickness and is being eroded constantly as the planet succumbs to climate change. Thicker ice would mean longer-lasting ice. In turn, that would mean the danger of all sea ice disappearing from the Arctic in summer would be reduced significantly.

Desch and his team have put forward the scheme in a paper that has just been published in Earth’s Future, and they have worked out a price tag for the project: $500bn. It is an astonishing sum. However, it is the kind of outlay that may become necessary if we want to halt the calamity that faces the Arctic. They say that it is now warming twice as fast as their climate models predicted only a few years ago.

Hence, Desch’s scheme to use wind pumps to bring water which is insulated from the bitter Arctic cold by its icy surface, where it will freeze and thicken the ice cap. Nor is the physicist alone in his Arctic scheming. Other projects to halt sea-ice loss include one to artificially whiten the Arctic by scattering light-coloured aerosol particles over it to reflect solar radiation back into space, and another to spray sea water into the atmosphere above the region to create clouds that would also reflect sunlight away from the surface.

All the projects are highly imaginative, and extremely costly. The fact that they are even being considered reveals just how desperately worried researchers have become about the Arctic. The situation is causing grave concern, and it is now much more serious than even the worst case scenarios originally suggested.

Last November, when sea ice should have begun thickening and spreading over the Arctic as winter set in, the region warmed up. Temperatures should have plummeted to -25C but reached several degrees above freezing instead. It’s been about 20C warmer than normal over most of the Arctic Ocean. This is unprecedented.

In fact, sea ice growth stalled during the second week of January – in the heart of the Arctic winter – while the ice cap actually retreated within the Kara and Barents seas, and within the Sea of Okhotsk. Similarly, the Svalbard archipelago, normally shrouded in ice, has remained relatively free because of the inflow of warm Atlantic water along the western part of the island chain. Consequently, although there has been some recovery, sea ice remains well below all previous record lows.

Equally worrying is the likely impact on wildlife. Juvenile Arctic cod like to hang out under the sea ice. Polar bears hunt on sea ice, and seals give birth on it. We have no idea what will happen when that lot disappears.

In addition, there is the problem of increasing numbers of warm spells during which rain falls instead of snow. That rain then freezes on the ground and forms a hard coating that prevents reindeer and caribou from finding food under the snow. Nor would the rest of the world be isolated. With less ice to reflect solar radiation back into space, the dark ocean waters of the high latitudes will warm and the Arctic will heat up even further. The Arctic ice cap reaches its maximum extent every March and then, over the next six months, dwindles.

The Tribune

What is the writer's intention in the first paragraph?
What outcome does the writer suggest in the second paragraph?
What does the writer mean when he describes the water as being insulated in the fourth paragraph?
What objective is the writer describing at the end of the fourth paragraph?
What is the writer referring to with the word This at the end of paragraph 6?
What reason does the writer give in the seventh paragraph for the sea ice not getting thicker?
Test 2 / 25

A lawsuit against McDonald’s

If Caesar Barber dreamed of winning fame, he probably didn’t think it would be due to his obesity. However, since the 120kg maintenance worker filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King last month – seeking damages for selling him food that made him obese – Barber’s 15 minutes of fame are proving as painful as the two heart attacks he has already had.

“Does anyone really believe that Mr Barber was too dumb to know that eating saturated fat was less healthy than having, say, a fruit dish or a chef salad?” said Steve Dasbach, who is the executive director of the Libertarian party. Barber says that he was in the dark about the nutritional content of the fast food he was eating up to five times a week from the 1950s onwards. Incredibly, he didn’t give up burgers and salty fries after he had his first heart attack in 1996. He is now a diabetic with high blood pressure.

In his lawsuit – the first of its kind in the United States – he contends that deceptive advertising misled him about the nutritional value of the food until a doctor pointed it out. “Those people in the advertisements don’t tell you what’s in the food,” he says. “Now I’m obese. The fast-food industry has ruined my life. They said 100% beef. I thought that meant it was good for you.”

Attacks on Barber’s character and perceived IQ became a sport in the US media. Barber wasn’t stupid, columnists and radio hosts joked, just out to make money by failing to take responsibility for his diet. More than 75 million Americans eat fast food every day. But who, the journalists asked, doesn’t know that too much will make you overweight?

“Mr Barber honestly didn’t know what the dangers were when he started eating fast food in the 50s,” says his lawyer, Samuel Hirsch. “The fast-food chains made no effort then, and little today, to inform consumers about the dangerously high fat, cholesterol or salt content of their food.” Hirsch says that his client, who has now gone into hiding, is not trying to make money but to get the chains to inform customers that their food is guilty of expanding their waistlines.

Barber and his lawyer are following hard on the heels of a series of lawsuits win over some tobacco companies for the addictive nature of nicotine and subsequent diagnosis of cancer. It actually seems that Hirsh believes that there might be similarities between tobacco and fast food products as he claims that both nicotine and fast food products create a craving.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine applauded the lawsuit. The committee’s research coordinator, Brie Turner-McGrivey, says that whether Barber wins or loses, the hype surrounding the case has been good for doctors, spotlighting America’s obesity epidemic and the role that fast food plays in it.

One might consider Mr. Barber’s case an act of stupidity or an attempt to make some quick money but Ceasar Barber definitely takes credit for initiating the discussion about whether obesity is a matter of personal responsibility or if fast food chains are also to blame for failure to inform consumers and fighting obesity has become a one of the priorities of American health organizations.

Why is Caesar Barber famous?
What does Caesar Barber say about fast food?
After the first heart attack, Caesar Barber
How did the American media react to this lawsuit?
Caesar Barber’s lawyer argues that
is meant by the expression “hard on the heels”?