a) Adrift at sea:

The dramatic but inevitable calving of a trillion-ton iceberg from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica raises the question, did a warming atmosphere have a significant impact on the process? Scientists from Project MIDAS, a U.K.-based Antarctic research project that has been looking at the ice shelf for many years, have said the formation of icebergs is natural, and no link to human-induced climate change was available in this case. Yet, the impact of such a loss on the stability of the ice shelf itself may not be benign. Should it disintegrate, glaciers normally feeding into the floating shelf may have nothing to restrain them, and could then contribute to sea level rise, possibly at a slow rate. Such fears are based on the unambiguous data on the thinning of the Larsen Ice Shelf. Researchers said in 2003 that Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves retreated each year since 1980 by about 300 This erosion has been interspersed by two previous collapses of smaller ice shelves, Larsen A in 1995 and Larsen B in 2002, the latter providing strong evidence of subsequent accelerated glacier flow into the sea. While any negative impact of the latest event will likely be felt years or decades later, it highlights the need to stop continued warming of the planet from man-made carbon emissions. Antarctica is a climate stabilising factor, and the importance of the marine West Antarctic ice sheet was highlighted by U.S. scientists over four decades ago. In the context of rising emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, a cautionary note was sounded, on warming seas hastening the melting of the shelves that hold its great mass. Indeed, the point made was that except for man-made causes, there was no anticipated factor in the natural geological cycle that would disturb Antarctica. The separation of an iceberg almost 6,000 sq. km in size from the ice shelf shows the importance of such alarms. Fortunately, newer satellite technologies, which were not available during earlier instances of iceberg calving, will help in the study of the fragile peninsular region and Antarctica as a whole. Among the stark effects of changes could be a shift in biodiversity: species like emperor penguins which depend on sea ice to complete their life cycle are at risk if ice cover declines. Any dramatic changes will only add to the worry of irreversible effects of climate change, given that the Arctic and Greenland have also been losing ice cover. Clearly, the loss of a massive portion of the Larsen C Ice Shelf marks another milestone in the evolution of this remote region. Yet, the lack of long-term data on Antarctica, as opposed to other regions, makes it difficult to arrive at sound conclusions. What is clear is that the last pristine continent should be left well alone, with a minimum of human interference, even as research efforts are intensified to study the impact of human activities in the rest of the world on this wilderness.

b) How Brexit has begun to unravel:

It’s often the case that when a senior politician ridicules concerns about a policy or programme, you know it is really running into trouble. That’s certainly true of Brexit. David Davis, the “Brexit” secretary (the cabinet minister who heads the clunkily named Department for Exiting the European Union) told a House of Lords select committee earlier this week that he viewed with “amusement” press reports suggesting the government was “softening” its stance on Brexit, with some even suggesting that it might not happen at all. Nicholas Watt, a senior editor of the BBC news programme News-night, reported last week he had spoken to a number of senior figures, including influential supporters of Brexit, who now believed there was a “strong chance” it might not happen at all, a sentiment that has been repeated by others in one way or another since.

Electoral setback

Questions about the viability of Brexit as the government had laid it out — in Prime Minister Theresa May’s crucial Lancaster House speech in January — emerged rapidly after the election and the government’s loss of its overall parliamentary majority. Ms. May had pegged the election around public support for her version of Brexit, which involved leaving the single market in order to satisfy public demand for border controls, as well as exiting the customs union in order for Britain to be able to negotiate tariff-free deals unrestrictedly with the rest of the world. With the loss of seats, and rise of Labour putting this mandate in question, many asked whether the party would be forced to soften its stance on a number of key issues, particularly given its alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which had made the issue of the open border between the two Irelands all the more important to solve. (The issue of how to keep an open border while ending the customs union is seen as one of the major practical challenges of Brexit.) There are a number of reasons why those questions have persisted since. Firstly, the practical issues around Brexit — and the interpretation of the “will of the people” vis-à- vis the referendum — seem to be burgeoning rapidly, highlighted by an ongoing controversy over Britain’s membership of the European nuclear industry regulator, Euratom. Britain had committed to leaving the agency when it notified Europe of its plans to leave the union, back in March. The government had suggested it had little option but to leave as it raised issues around jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice among other things, but legal opinion remains very divided, with many (even strident Brexiteers) suggesting that keeping Britain in Euratom remained completely viable and necessary. In fact, among those to criticise the government for its insistence on leaving was none other than the man who had headed the Vote Leave campaign, Dominic Cummings, who labelled those who were pushing to leave Euratom “morons”. Others have warned that by leaving the regulator, Britain would lose out on crucial developments that had taken place, particularly around radiotherapy, which could delay the delivery of cancer drugs to patients.

No deal or bad deal?

Then there’s the confusion on what the government policy on crucial areas is: for example, around the now infamous slogan of the Prime Minister that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” That negotiating position has faced widespread criticism from both within and outside Conservative Party circles, for the perception internationally that Britain’s aggressive negotiating stance was likely to be counteractive. Major questions are now being asked about whether a plan exists for the “no deal” scenario, with differing answers from senior cabinet members. “Are ministers just making it up as they go along?” asked Emily Thornberry, Britain’s shadow foreign secretary at Prime Minister’s Questions this week. Another crucial area over which confusion reigns is the issue of the transitional period that would ease Britain’s exit for it and other member states, in particular what EU precepts or bodies would continue to be relevant over that period. Some fear the scale of the practical challenges facing the government is something they have not necessarily acknowledged. In an extraordinary intervention this week, Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office, told the media ahead of the publication of a report that the government’s approach to Brexit was in danger of falling apart “like a chocolate orange” with little flexibility involved in the government’s approach or willingness to accommodate a backup plan. (The government’s in-flexibility on major issues became apparent with the publication of the “repeal bill”, which removes the supremacy of EU law, and which includes no concessions on issues that opposition parties had sought such as on the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.) These issues arise at a time when economic conditions have toughened, factors Brexiteers say are unrelated to the exiting process, but which critics say were just some of the repercussions they had warned about all along. Inflation in May climbed to its highest rate in four years, 2.9%, with weakness of the pound persisting, as wages remain subdued. While the unemployment rate is at its lowest level since the 1970s, the Office for National Statistics said last week that real disposable incomes were falling at their highest rate since 2011, largely as a result of inflation. Anecdotal evidence has also suggested that concerns about Brexit have finally begun to hit investment into the country, while EU workers in areas such as health have begun to leave the country, creating potential skills shortages. Pessimism remains high about what will follow Brexit. On Wednesday, the ratings agency Moody’s warned that it was “unclear” whether the government would be able to deliver a “reasonably good outcome” in its negotiations with Europe, warning that the likelihood of an abrupt exit with no agreement and reversion to WTO trading rules had increased.

Continental shift

Overall, one has a sense of the upper hand lying very much with the continent. Bluff and bluster has continued in Britain. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson scoffed at the “divorce bill”, the multibillion-pound payment that Europe believes is owed to it by Britain as it exits the union, telling MPs that the EU could “go whistle.” But his remarks were calmly rejected by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator. He warned that without a recognition of the payments owed by Britain, trust would be broken and there would be little chance of negotiations moving forward. “I am not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking,” he said this week. With just twenty months to go till Britain is meant to leave the union, with the purported mission of “taking back control” of borders, laws, and trade, it’s potentially more of a time bomb.


1) Inevitable

Meaning: Certain to happen; unavoidable.

Example: War was inevitable

Synonyms: Unavoidable, Inescapable

Antonyms: Avoidable, Uncertain

2) Induced

Meaning: Succeed in persuading or leading (someone) to do something.

Example: The pickets induced many workers to stay away.

Synonyms: Persuade, convince

Antonyms: Dissuade

3) Disintegrate

Meaning: Lose strength or cohesion and gradually fail; Break up into small parts as the result of impact or decay.

Example: Our shoes had to last until they disintegrated on our feet.

4) Restrain

Meaning: Prevent (someone or something) from doing something; keep under control or within limits.

Example: The need to restrain public expenditure.

Synonyms: Prevent, Stop

Antonyms: Force, Compel

5) Unambiguous

Meaning: Not open to more than one interpretation.

Example: Instructions should be unambiguous.

6) Interspersed

Meaning: Scatter among or between other things; place here and there.

Example: Deep pools interspersed by shallow shingle banks.

Synonyms: Scatter, Distribute

7) Subsequent

Meaning: Coming after something in time; following.

Example: The theory was developed subsequent to the earthquake of 1906.

Synonyms: Following, Succeeding

Antonyms: Previous, Prior

8) Hastening

Meaning: Be quick to do something; move or travel hurriedly.

Example: He hastened to refute the assertion.

Synonyms: Hurry, Go fast

Antonyms: Dawdle, Crawl

9) Calving

Meaning: Split and shed

Example: Glaciers were calving icebergs directly into the sea.

10) Fragile

Meaning:  Easily broken or damaged.

Example: Fragile items such as glass and china.

Synonyms: Breakable, Brittle

Antonyms: Robust

11) Stark

Meaning: unpleasantly or sharply clear; complete; sheer

Example: The ridge formed a stark silhouette against the sky.

Synonyms: Sharp

Antonyms: Fuzzy, Indistinct

12) Pristine

Meaning: In its original condition; unspoilt; Clean and fresh as if new; spotless

Example: A pristine white shirt.

Synonyms: Immaculate, Perfect

Antonyms: Dirty, Sullied

13) Intensified

Meaning: Become or make more intense.

Example: The dispute began to intensify.

Synonyms: Escalate, Step up

Antonyms: Lessen, Abate

14) Concerns

Meaning: Relate to; be about.

Example: The story concerns a friend of mine.

Synonyms: Be about, Deal with

15) Burgeoning

Meaning: Begin to grow or increase rapidly; flourish.

Example: Manufacturers are keen to cash in on the burgeoning demand.

Synonyms: Grow rapidly, Expand

Antonyms: Shrink

16) Strident

Meaning: (of a sound) loud and harsh; grating.

Example: His voice had become increasingly strident.

Synonyms: Harsh, Raucous

Antonyms: Soft, Dulcet

17) Insistence

Meaning: The fact or quality of insisting that something is the case or should be done.

Example: Alison’s insistence on doing the washing-up straight after the meal.

Synonyms: Demand, Bidding

18) Perception

Meaning: The ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.

Example: The normal limits to human perception.

Synonyms: Discernment, Appreciation

19) Concessions

Meaning: A thing that is granted, especially in response to demands; The action of conceding or granting something.

Example: the government was unwilling to make any further concessions.

Synonyms: Compromise, Adjustment, Acknowledgement

Antonyms: Denial, Retention

20) Repercussions

Meaning: An unintended consequence of an event or action, especially an unwelcome one.

Example: The move would have grave repercussions for the entire region.

Synonyms: Consequence, Result

21) Pessimism

Meaning: A tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen.

Example: The dispute cast an air of deep pessimism over the future of the peace talks.

Synonyms: Defeatism, Negative thinking

22) Reversion

Meaning: A return to a previous state, practice, or belief.

Example: There was some reversion to polytheism.

23) Scoffed

Meaning: Speak to someone or about something in a scornfully derisive or mocking way.

Example: Patrick professed to scoff at soppy love scenes in films.

Synonyms: Mock, Deride

Other Editorials you may wish to READ:

THE HINDU EDITORIAL – 14, July – 2017