What Rapidly Melting Polar Ice Means For The Planet’s Future
The installation by Olafur Eliasson is part of a project presented during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), the United Nations conference on climate change taking place at le Bourget, on the outskirts of Paris, from November 30 to December 11. (Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images)
As the U.N. Climate Change Conference winds down this week in Paris, people in the city can still go see a big, outdoor art installation outside the Pantheon that’s been up since the talks began: 88 tons of Arctic ice, trucked in from Greenland, arranged in the shape of a clock, slowly melting into the cobblestones. A visual, tangible representation of what’s at stake as the climate changes.
Waleed Abdalati, meanwhile, is watching ice melt – increasingly fast – in its natural habitat, in Greenland and Antarctica. He’s director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a former chief scientist for NASA who studies polar ice.
“Ice is an interesting thing because it’s binary,” he tells Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson. “People get it. You see, ‘Oh, it was there and now it’s not.’ And you can see change. Temperature, you know what does 1 degree C mean? It’s 1 degree centigrade warmer. So what does that mean? But ice, there’s a very visual story that’s unfolding there, whereas with temperature it kind of creeps up on us and it’s hard to associate with directly.”
Abdalati discusses the changes scientists are seeing in glacial ice and sea ice, and what it means for the future of the planet.
- Waleed Abdalati, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, at the University of Colorado Boulder, and a former chief scientist for NASA who studies polar ice.
Global Climate Change