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Environment

Antarctic damage alarming: Monaco's Prince Albert

PUNTA ARENAS, Chile (Reuters) - Prince Albert of Monaco said on Thursday there were alarming signs of damage to the Antarctic environment and called for more scientific research into threats such as global warming.

The Prince, at the southern tip of Chile on a stop-over during a three-week series of visits to Antarctica lasting until January 21, also told Reuters in an interview that he would pay to offset the greenhouse gas emissions from his own visit by investing in renewable energies.

“There are a few alarming signs” of change in Antarctica, he said in Punta Arenas after touring islands at the north of the Antarctic peninsula with the head of the Chilean Antarctic Institute and other experts.

The Prince, who won an award in 2008 from the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) for efforts to safeguard the planet, is traveling to more than 20 research stations, including a ski trip to the South Pole.

He last visited the North Pole two years ago.

“In terms of marine ecosystems, there seems to be in most areas a shortage of krill,” he said of the shrimp-like creatures that usually abound in the Southern Ocean.

“Some of...the big whales have little to feed on, and the penguins as well. Some of their colonies are diminishing,” Albert, 50, said.

“Then there’s climate change. Certain indicators there are extremely worrisome.”

“Both poles are extremely sensitive and fragile areas,” he added. “To better understand them we need better science and more science.”

The U.N. Climate Panel says that greenhouse gases, mainly from burning fossil fuels, are raising world temperatures and could bring more floods, droughts, heatwaves and rising sea levels.

Several ice shelves on the Antarctic peninsula snaking up toward South America have disintegrated in recent years, apparently because of a rapid rise in temperatures of 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) in the past 50 years.

But in most of Antarctica -- bigger than the United States -- there is no sign of a thaw. Antarctica holds enough ice to raise world sea levels by about 57 meters (190 ft) if it all melted.

“DANGER CORD”

Albert said he hoped his trip would give him legitimacy to talk about Antarctica and “if need be, pull the danger cord and have everybody join the efforts to better protect the environment in this particular region.”

“This is not only an old dream come true, but it’s an opportunity to visit these stations and see the research,” he said in the interview in the Shackleton bar, named after British Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

Editing by Michael Roddy

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