Chasing Ice. (2012) PG-13. Follow National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. Carbon and temperature vary together. Over the last 800,000 years or so, the amount of atmospheric carbon in the air was never more than 280 ppm. Until we started adding carbon to the air. Now it’s around 390 ppm, about 40% higher than when carbon was occurring for natural reasons. But now we’re heading to 500 ppm or more. That pace is a hundred to a thousand times greater than the pace at which things have changed, by themselves, naturally. We have discovered some trends. Greenhouse gas emissions are already contributing to more intense and more events. It cannot be claimed by better reporting. It has to be explained by changes in the atmospheric conditions.
It’s not just that the weather is changing, it is that the air is changing.
Greenhouse gasses occur in very small amounts. By increasing that by just a little bit, you change the background state of the system and make it much more susceptible to increased extremes.
If you had an abscess in your tooth, would you keep going to dentist after dentist until you found one that said, “Ah, don’t worry about it. Leave that rotten tooth in.” Or, would you pull it out because most of the other dentists told you you had a problem? That’s sort of what we’re doing with global climate change. We’ll be arguing about this for centuries. We’re still arguing about a minor thing called evolution, about a minor thing whether or not a man actually walked on the moon. We don’t have time.
You know, we’re really in the midst of geologic scale change. Our brains are programmed to think that geology is something that happened a long time ago or will happen a long time into the future. And we don’t think that can happen during these little years that we live on this planet. But the reality is that it does.
We’re living through one of those epochal eras of change. And we humans are causing it.
If a glacier that has been there for hundreds of thousands of years is dying before your eyes, you’re very aware that, … you know, sometime you go out over the horizon and you don’t come back.
One of the things you hear in the debate about glacier change is that there are glaciers that are getting bigger, that they’re advancing. How can that be? How can that be in response to a global warming signal? On the Yukon Territory in Canada where we looked at the change in glacier area from 1958 to 2008, of the 1400 glaciers that were there in 1958, 4 got bigger, over 300 disappeared completely, and almost all of the rest got smaller. Yes, there is a component of natural variability in the climate change we observe, but it’s not enough to explain the full signal. So there has to be a greenhouse gas element to it.
When my daughters look at me 25-30 years from now and say, “What were you doing when global warming was happening and you guys knew what was coming down the road?” I want to be able to say I was doing everything I knew how to do.
— VIA —
Visually stunning. I echo Balog’s sentiments, that as a photographer these images are incredibly beautiful and amazing. As a planetary citizen, they’re frightening. It truly is one of the most mind blowing things, that humans could have this much impact on a planet.
May our global policy makers have the resolve and commitment to consider deeply our future generations.