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The Prime Meridian: A Climate Journey's Guide

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The Prime Meridian: A Climate Journey's Guide

The Prime Meridian: A Climate Journey's Guide

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: This is the morning we begin a journey around the world. It's going to take us about a year. And all the way around, we will track the way that the climate is changing and how that's affecting us. The reports are called Climate Connections. We're doing this in partnership with National Geographic, and we begin in London where NPR's Renee Montagne is joining us. Renee.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

I am a few miles down the Thames River from London. I'm at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, and I'm standing here - just a minute. There you go. Little thump on the piece of really quite prosaic metal strip that runs across a garden. This line is the prime meridian of the world. Zero degrees longitude. It runs from the North Pole to the South Pole. It divides the world in half.

I'm standing where east meets west. And tourists come from around the world to straddle this line.

(Soundbite of crowd speaking in foreign language)

MONTAGNE: This year, the meridian will be our guide as we traveled the globe to explore how people are changing earth's climate and how the climate is changing people. And just to give our listeners an idea of what we're planning, let's step away for a few moments from zero degrees here at Greenwich, England to listen to the kinds of sounds we'll be playing this next year, throughout the year, as we take giant leaps along the prime meridian.

(Soundbite of crowd speaking in foreign language)

MONTAGNE: Our first stop, Mali, Africa.

(Soundbite of crowd singing in foreign language)

MONTAGNE: Women stoop down and scoop up water for their vegetable garden. For the past 50 years, there has been a drought here. People don't know why exactly. What these women do know is that the huge lake next to their town has dried up. They now dip their buckets into a muddy channel that carries water from 50 miles away.

(Soundbite of bird chirping)

MONTAGNE: On the other side of the world, there's plenty of water.

(Soundbite of water splashing)

MONTAGNE: We've just plunged into the ocean off the coast of Fiji into the swimming-pool blue of the South Pacific. The waters here are getting warmer and higher, and this could change the lives of millions of people who live surrounded by the sea.

(Soundbite of crushing ice)

MONTAGNE: And on our world travels, we will also feel the cold. If you walk the prime meridian all the way down to the bottom, you hit the thick ice of Antarctica, which is freezing, of course. But some scientists predict it will warm up in coming decades.

(Soundbite of emperor penguins)

MONTAGNE: The emperor penguins who live here sound almost cocky.

(Soundbite of emperor penguins)

MONTAGNE: But some might hear this as early distress call. Not just for them but for all of us. If too much ice melts here, people around the world could see the waters rise up and flood their home.

(Soundbite of emperor penguins)

INSKEEP: Now, and you can almost here the penguins waddling away there. So there you go. In just a couple of minutes, a quick tour of the world, circling the globe.

And Renee, you hardly seem tired. Where are you now?

MONTAGNE: Steve, I'm back to where we started this conversation - zero degrees longitude, Greenwich, England. I'll be in Great Britain all week, helping to launch NPR's series, because for one thing, this is where global warming really got going. Britain is where the world learned how to harness the power of fossil fuels - and coal, especially. And the fact that Britain was a super power, an industrial power, a great might in the 19th century, one of the reasons why the prime meridian was fixed on this spot in Greenwich.

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