Ep2: What Polar Ice Is Telling Us
February 8, 2022 – Polar ice has a story to tell. Trapped in it are clues to the past -- dirt and dust, and air -- going back a million years. From this, climate scientists can figure out what was happening during past ice ages and warm periods. In each case, it all came down to carbon -- how much carbon dioxide was in the air. And we're now at CO2 levels last seen in the Pliocene Epoch -- 2.5 to 5 million years ago, long before modern humans walked the earth. Sure, we call ourselves homo sapiens, but glaciologist Martin Siegert says we're heading toward a 'stupid warm' future, and it's time to get smart. He lays it all out here -- what's happening, what the ice is telling us, and what we need to do now.
Martin Siegert is a glaciologist with three decades of experience, including research in Antarctica, a professor, and co-director of the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and Environment, at Imperial College London (UK).
Click below to see the full episode transcript:
COAL+ICE Podcast, Ep2: What Polar Ice is Telling Us
February 8, 2022
If you ever get a chance to walk on a polar ice sheet, do it.
(Sound of crunching footsteps on ice)
The vast, white, rolling landscape is a world all its own – though it’s very much part of our world, impacted by what we do, impacting us with how it reacts.
And the ice melting at an alarming rate. It’s turning into waterfalls, like this one, in Greenland.
(Sound of waterfall)
I recorded this there in the summer of 2019. It was then Greenland’s hottest summer on record – until the next one.
The water you’re hearing is runoff from a well-known major glacier in Greenland, called the Russell Glacier. This is what I recorded while I was looking at it:
(00:48) Mary Kay Magistad: So I’m winding down a sandy path toward the glacier, which looms in front of me. Huge, and mostly white, but also kind of scruffy looking. Lots of dirt built into the glacier, from it pushing its way forward. Just beyond the glacier – which isn’t quite as big as I was expecting it to be, even though it’s quite tall -- there’s the moraine – the pile of dirt and stones that the glacier has pushed forward. The glacier is not quite as tall as the moraine, because it’s continued to shrink over the last few years. It’s now half the height that it was even just 10 years ago. You can kind of see some of the edges of the glacier leaning toward me. There are little slivers of glacier that are starting to break off from the main body of snow and ice. And these are the parts that calf, that break off. So it’s not quite as spectacular as with the polar glaciers in the sea, where huge chunks of it break off. This will be smaller chunks. But it’s the same idea. The sun, and the running water, are both working at breaking the glacier apart.
That’s one way polar ice is trying to tell us something about climate change. There is another – and it’s worth listening.
(02:18) Welcome to the COAL AND ICE Podcast, from Asia Society, with global conversations about how climate change is playing out around the world, and what we can do about it. I’m Mary Kay Magistad.
COAL+ICE is an Asia Society photography exhibition that’s traveled the world over the past decade, and it’s coming to the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, March 15th to April 22nd, 2022. Its dramatic photos of coal miners and melting Himalayan glaciers are a meditation on the causes and effects of climate change.
The causes – fossil fuel use and carbon emissions – are warming the Arctic faster than anywhere else on earth.
The white ice that used to reflect sunlight, melts, and becomes dark water. It absorbs the heat of the sun, and melts more ice. Ocean levels rise, as the waters themselves warm and acidify – bleaching coral, and imperiling sealife.
Ice is melting on both ends of the earth – the Arctic, and the Antarctic. In both places, the ice has something to tell us, and scientists are listening – while appreciating just how extraordinary these icescapes are.
(03:35) Martin Siegert: You sort of walk around this place, and you’re looking around, and it's just like, nowhere else you've ever been. I mean, completely nowhere else you've ever been. It’s quite powerful, actually. But amazing. And beautiful. And humbling.
This is Martin Siegert, talking about Antarctica. He’s a glaciologist, and a professor, and co-director of the Grantham Institute, which focuses on climate change and the environment, at Imperial College in London. And Antarctica is where he has done his research.
(04:03) Martin Siegert: And I'm studying what’s happening underneath the ice. And I use geophysical equipment to look underneath the ice. Essentially, that’s what I do. And I've been doing it for 30 years or so. And what I'm aware of, what many scientists are aware of, is that although it looks like a place which is pristine and untouched by humans, actually, increasingly that's not the case.
He means that climate change is melting the ice here, causing huge chunks of glacier to break away and melt. But there’s another way that humans are here – scientists, drilling deep, deep down, and taking out round cores of ice.
(04:40) Martin Siegert: And it started in the late 1960s in Antarctica. And it’s a science, right? There are people who do research in how to drill ice. And we got better at it. It takes a long time to mechanically remove the ice. So the infrastructure you need is quite significant. You need a proper drill rig and a team of drillers and scientists. Because when the core material comes out, you want to start analyzing it and packing it away and curating it immediately.
Mary Kay Magistad: You do it on the spot so that the ice doesn't melt?
Martin Siegert: Some of it. Yeah. So you'll do some of it on the spot. There's some things instantly that you can just do. But some of it, you need to come into a lab. So whenever you take an ice core out, there will be an agreed way to carve up the ice. Some of it will be for immediate analysis. Some of it will be for shipping back to labs to be analyzed back there, because you get more sophisticated equipment. So there’s no making it up on the spot at all. So everyone knows, when you get this -- it costs a huge amount of money to get this stuff. It’s immensely valuable, from a climate perspective.
And all this needs to happen within three or so months each year when the temperatures in Antarctica are tolerable for humans.
Martin Siegert: And what we're really doing is searching for parts of the ice sheets that can take us deeper back in time, or we can go to parts of the ice sheets that have an abundance of ice from a certain period in time.
(06:00): It's a time capsule – a frozen history of the world. In the Arctic, the lowest levels of the ice are 100,000 years old. In Antarctica, they’re a million years old, because it snows much less there, so there’s less snow to tamp down each year, over the years, over the centuries, into a layer of ice. The Arctic has many more storms, with more snow, and an ice core with much thicker layers.
(06:30) Martin Siegert: Because there’s so much accumulation, you can actually see every single year in the ice core. So ice cores in both places are magnificent. They tell us slightly different things about what’s going on. Greenland, very high-resolution records about the climate that's operating in that part of the world. Antarctica, great information about the deep time, and what's been causing ice age cycles, et cetera, to occur. I don't know what we would have done actually, in terms of knowing about our past climate, if it hadn't been for ice cores. We’re indebted.
Mary Kay Magistad: And the ice cores include dirt or dust from 100,000 years ago, or a million years ago. And you can also tell what was in the atmosphere at that time.
Martin Siegert: Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. But even more than that, you can measure how much salt is in the ice. And that comes from the ocean. You can certainly work out the dust. You can work out the isotopic values of the oxygen that's in the ice. It can tell you whether there was a lot of ice on the planet, or not so much ice on the planet. It's an amazing record of global ice volume. And from global ice volume, you can reconstruct sea level change, global sea level change.
Mary Kay Magistad: And you can also see what carbon dioxide levels were at different times in history.
(07:42) Martin Siegert: Yeah. I mean, that's the special thing about ice cores is they are time capsules, of course. And so, if you throw a snowball, it won’t weigh very much. And the reason it doesn't weigh very much is because it's mostly air. And Antarctica is much the same, right? You can throw a snowball in Antarctica. It’s just the same stuff.
If you think about burying that snow, after about 50, maybe 70 years of being buried, the air in the ice will be cut off from the atmosphere completely. So there's no circulation or anything. And once it’s cut off, it’s now a time capsule. The air within it initially forms a little air bubble, actually it can be incorporated into the sort of crystal lattice as well, but it’s still there. And so when you retrieve the ice core, you can sample the air. It's a direct measurement of the atmosphere, the air, at the time that the ice around it was snow. It's amazing. We can actually sample the air from 100,000 years ago, or 200,000 years ago, and pretty much every year in-between.
And it just shows us that the carbon dioxide levels, they go up and down with time, and they go up and down when the ice ages change. So when you’re in an ice age -- and the last ice age was only 20,000 years ago -- the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere was about 180 parts per million. Previous ice age was exactly the same. Previous ice age, the one before that, cycles of various ice ages, always, CO2 – around about 180 parts per million.
Between ice ages, like we are today, the last one was 125,000 years ago, maybe before, the CO2 level was about 280 parts per million. And it's amazing how regular that is, as far as the ice core tells us. And it was that way until about 1850. And then it changed.
Mary Kay Magistad: And now we’re at four hundred and --
(09:25) Martin Siegert: We've got about 416 parts per million. We can go to the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii. And that gives us an accurate measurement of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration daily record. I think it's about 416. It goes off up in the wintertime, and down in the summertime, a little bit. But it's way over 400 now. Has been for several years.
There’s no record of atmospheric carbon dioxide being that high in the entire ice core record. You’ve got to use the rock record to find the last time it was as high as it is right now. And you’ve got to go back somewhere between 5 and 3.5 million years ago, in a time called the Pliocene, before the last time we had 400 PPM.
(10:25) Mary Kay Magistad: And you've said, you’ve written that because the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is still increasing, and may continue to increase yet for decades, that by the end of this century, we could be at a thousand parts per million?
Martin Siegert: Yeah. So that's the real concern, isn't it? So at 400 PPM, you look at the Pliocene. And the Pliocene conditions were temperatures about three, maybe four degrees warmer than they are today.
Mary Kay Magistad: You’re talking centigrade, right?
Martin Siegert: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Centigrade.
Mary Kay Magistad: So Fahrenheit, for an American audience, this would be…
Martin Siegert: It would be more.
Mary Kay Magistad: (chuckling) It would be more.
(10:40) Martin Siegert: (chuckling): I always think that the empirical system is a great gift that the English gave to the Americans. But, we've changed. (Laughs). So it was warmer. Noticably warmer. But the sea level was about 20 meters – so that's 60 feet -- higher than it is today. And so that's a real concern, because if we keep CO2 levels as high as they are now, that could well be the climate destination. Now it might take some time to get there -- some decades, some centuries, maybe thousands of years. But that looks like where it might end up if CO2 levels always stay at around about 400.
But that's not the real problem. So if we just keep emitting carbon dioxide loosely around the levels that we are at the moment, just keep doing it and just put a root on the graph and just extrapolate it to the end of the century, there'll be somewhere between 800 to 1,000 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere. That's the sort of scenario where we just -- all our efforts to stop emitting carbon dioxide fail. Or we don't care for some reason, and it just keeps going up.
(11:43) So a thousand parts per million – very difficult to see how we live on this planet in the way that we do today. And we know that because we have had a thousand PPM in the atmosphere before, but you've got to go back a long way. You've got to go back about 55 million years, called the Paleocene Eocene Thermo-Maximum, when the CO2 level in the atmosphere went from the low hundreds, like it is today, to a thousand. It was through volcanic activity, a lot of volcanoes spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And it took somewhere between 20, maybe 50,000 years to do that – geologically, very quickly. It’s almost instant, geologically. But we're doing it much more quickly than that. We’re putting an equivalent amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, it would be, in 80 years.
(12:25) So even though there was no ice on the planet 55 million years ago, so the sea level would have been 60 meters higher than it is now, and the temperatures would be 10 degrees warmer. I don’t know what that is in Fahrenheit either, but a lot warmer. That will be major changes to the way that we use the land, the land surface. Our ability to farm wouldn’t be stopped, but it would be massively altered.
(12:49) The human geography of our planet, the country boundaries, the coastlines, where we live -- the ports, the cities -- they would all be affected by that scenario. It’s not to say that it's the end of human civilization and our species. It's not to say that. It's completely possible that humans could have lived in a world with 1,000 PPM in the atmosphere. But the way that we live on the planet will be completely changed by that outcome.
(13:13) And the shame of it is it's totally avoidable.. We know this is a scenario that we should be avoiding. We know we can avoid it. And we also know the best time to take action is right now. Actually the best time to take action would have been about 20 years ago, because it would have been relatively straightforward to do. But we didn't. We pretty took no action in the last 20 years.
And so here we are, needing to achieve a net zero global outcome by 2050. It’s less than 30 years away. And we know we need to do roughly about half of that in the next 10 years. The first 50%, by the way, will be the easiest 50% and get more difficult, and this is why just 10 years to the first bit. If we don't do that, it makes achieving net zero so much more difficult. So we need to get on with it and we need to do it right now.
(14:03) The thing about CO2 that we all need to take a note of, is that it's not the most potent greenhouse gas. There are others. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas. But most of the others will fall out of the atmosphere naturally, quite quickly. But CO2 doesn't do that. You can pull it out the atmosphere. Trees will take it out of the atmosphere as they grow. We can mechanically remove it. But ordinarily, if it's not being actively taken out, it won't fall out naturally.
And so even though every year, we actually only put in a just little bit of carbon dioxide, it adds to the previous year, and then it adds to the next year and the next year and so on. And it's that cumulative effect of carbon dioxide that this makes it so dangerous. And worrying.
Mary Kay Magistad: So methane – one of the places that it could come from is from the permafrost in places that are now frozen, the Arctic and Antarctica.
Martin Siegert: Yes.
Mary Kay Magistad: If there is a great release of methane, it could spike the temperatures.
Martin Siegert: Yes, exactly.
Mary Kay Magistad: But for how long? What would the effect be?
(15:06) Martin Siegert: Yeah, so it's a matter of decades that'll fall out. So that's it. But once it gets released, its warming effect is instant, and significant. So it's a real concern. Let’s call it the methane time bomb, that all this decayed vegetation that exists, but is capped because of the permafrost in the soil, as the soil permafrost starts to thaw, that decayed vegetation starts becoming exposed to the atmosphere and releases its methane.
And there's such a huge potential amount of permafrost, which potentially is capping off huge amounts of biodegraded methane, all across the Siberia and the Arctic and many parts of Canada, as well. It’s a major, major concern, and this is still understudied. We still don't rightly know how much of this is happening.
(15:50) We know the Arctic permafrost is starting to thaw. In fairness, we haven't yet seen the sort of smoking gun methane spike to tell us that this is happening at a pace, but it's not to say that they can't or won't. And the smart thing to do is not to do that experiment.
(16:05) It feels like we're conducting a crazy experiment on our planet right now. In fact, if you thought, what have humans been trying to do since 1850? If it was return climate conditions to the Pliocene, we couldn’t have done it better than we've done it to this point. It's taken 150 years and here we are, pretty much at the Pliocene. It might take a little bit longer to get there, but, you know, largely job done. Another 80 years, and we'll go back to the Paleocene Eocene Thermo-maximum. This is insane! These are crazy experiments that we're doing. People talk about geoengineering the planet. We are geoengineering the planet. And we're making it stupid warm. And we're going to cause ourselves major problems. My feeling with this is that some of these problems may be overcome. We may be able to overcome them. But they’re so avoidable. They’re so unnecessary.
(16:56) And then it becomes a fairness thing. It becomes an intergenerational fairness thing. Because we can't really blame people that came before us, because they either didn't know about the climate science, or they didn't know about the urgency, or didn't know about paleo climates. There's so much we didn't know just 50 years ago that we do know now. And we know that this is a problem that we have caused. We know there's a problem that is solvable. And we know that if we don't solve it, it's going to be more difficult to solve in the future, not easier to solve in the future. So this is the time to do it. We absolutely have to do it right now. If we don't, we're going to make living on the planet far more difficult for our children and those that come after them for many generations.
(17:38) And in fact, if you take things to a thousand PPM, you take the atmospheric composition of CO2 to a thousand PPM, it will take another thousand years for it to drop out. This isn't a couple of generations, but centuries of problems that we are causing.
There's no analogy to what we're doing, geologically, actually. When I talk about the Paleocene Eocene Thermo-maximum, which is a real mouthful, but it took 20 to 50,000 years to get from the low hundreds to a thousand PPM. We're doing it in 80 years. The only analogy you have for something like that is an asteroid strike. It's not paleoclimate anymore. It's smashing in something into the planet.
(18:10) And in fact, I always think if we, if somehow human existence just dies out, and something replaces us, and they do ice coring -- they go to Antarctica, in 500,000 years, and they do ice coring, they’re going to think, ‘what on earth happened 500,00 years ago, when the CO2 level was going from 180 to 280, oscillating that way, and then all of a sudden it shot up to a thousand parts per million, in a period that we can’t measure, because half a million years ago would be difficult to resolve in an ice core. It would look instant. And the only thing that they’ll be able to conclude, if they didn't know about our civilization, was something must have smashed into the planet to instantly caused that.
That's the effect we’re having. That’s the effect that humans are having on this planet right now. And our generation, everyone living at the moment, is living through that transition. It’s completely atypical. Totally not normal. You know, we think flying around the world is normal. We think overconsumption is normal, buying whatever we want is normal. It's not normal. We're living in a way that's not sustainable. We live it in a way that's not normal and we need to change. And we need to think about a better way to live on the planet, a way that allows us to do the things we want to do, be happy in life, be comfortable, but also allows that those people that come after us to be able to do the same thing, have the same privilege that we have.
(19:28) Mary Kay Magistad: So even in the best-case scenario, we're going to be living with climate change -- our generation, the generation after, the generation, after that. And I think something that a lot of people, particularly those who say, oh, this is just part of the natural cycle of things, it’s climate change, but -- not really understanding how the wilder weather that we're having is connected to what you're studying. So can you, can you put that together? Like how is a warming ocean and an acidifying ocean, but especially a warming ocean, contributing to the kind of weather patterns we've been seeing recently?
(20:00) Martin Siegert: Yes, absolutely. So, it's not normal. The climate has always changed in the past. It really has. But what we can tell from the ice core record is whenever it's changed is because of greenhouse gas concentrations, right? So that's pretty straight forward. I’m very happy to take lessons from the past that guides our future. But what it tells us is that the future that we're building for ourselves doesn't have an analogy.
So what do we expect with warming? Well, we’re not expecting the world to warm gracefully and slowly and incrementally, like your oven might do when you put it on. It’ll get to its temperature in time. But it’ll do it in a very easy way. The climate system won’t work like that. We have weather. And that weather is sometimes nice and sometimes not so nice. And it’ll be the same in the future. But it's the extreme weather we should be most concerned about. We're expecting there to be far more heat waves. And we're starting to see that now. We're seeing temperatures on the planet, regularly in excess of 50 degrees.Centigrade. Don't know what that is in Fahrenheit.
Mary Kay Magistad: That's 120-130.
(21:00) Martin Siegert: Yeah, absolutely. It's beyond the human ability to live in that. And we're seeing it. We saw it in the States last year. You know, it topped 45 in Southwest Canada and Northwest United States, and really got close to the Death Valley record in the States. The record was equaled in Australia this summer -- over 50 degrees at the coast -- not even in the middle of the continent, at the coast. We’re seeing it regularly on the sub-continent, in Pakistan and India. This is happening far more regularly now than it ever has done. So that's the first thing. And we would expect more of that to happen, with associated implications for health.
The next thing is that we're noticing that with every one degree centigrade of warming, the air is able to contain 7% more moisture in it. So it doesn’t have to, but it can contain more moisture. So the opportunity for extreme downpour events is just greater now than it has been since before industrialization.
(22:00) Mary Kay Magistad: And of course, crops need lighter, more regular rain. So downpours are not a good thing.
Martin Siegert: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And we're seeing it. I mean, you saw it in the States, in New York. People died in their basements in New York because of massive downpours. They died because it rained. They died in Germany and Belgium, because it rained. These aren’t developing countries. These are countries that have great infrastructure, very wealthy. And weather is starting to kill people. And that's under 1.2 degrees of warming. Right? That's what, 1.2 does. The temperature will continue to go up. It will go up to at least 1.5, but actually possibly higher than that. Maybe to 2. Maybe, if we don’t change our ways, upwards to 4, maybe 5 degrees C by the end of the century.
(22:45) We will see much, much more of these. It'll become more severe, more extreme heat, more extreme rainfall, and make our ability to live on the planet occasionally quite risky.
That's something that we are responsible for. It's not nature that's doing that. It's nature, responding to something that we are doing. And so it's our fault. And we look to ourselves to have the solution to it. And that’s our lesson. That’s what we have to get our heads around.
Mary Kay Magistad: And I'm going to come back to that, about how we get our heads around it and what we need to do to change, but just to, you know, connect the different systems that are, that all have a feedback loop going at the moment. So, the warming temperatures from CO2 in the atmosphere -- the oceans are absorbing a lot of the carbon dioxide, which is warming the oceans and acidifying the oceans and affecting corals and affecting sea life. It's also warming the ice sheet, which as you put it so visually, is like a lid that, certainly up at the Arctic keeps the winds from stirring the waters up there. So two things happen, first of all, the sun hits the ice sheet and it melts it. And then there's blue water that's absorbing more of the heat. The ocean's already absorbing carbon dioxide, which also warms it. And so you've got this feedback back loop that just keeps going around and around faster and faster.
Martin Siegert: Yes.
Mary Kay Magistad: We're dealing with that right now. I mean Greenland’s ice sheet is melting faster right now than it ever has. It's just had like the warmest summers it's ever had. So what's the best case scenario for what we're going to be dealing with?
(24:10) Martin Siegert: The best case scenario?
Mary Kay Magistad: Yes.
Martin Siegert: That's a really good question. The best case scenario is that we stop emitting carbon dioxide and we keep temperatures to about 1.5 degrees. And as you rightly say, that means there is more warming with consequences, that's coming our way. So we have these two sides of this coin we have to deal with, and they’re equally serious. One is to mitigate the problem, stop emissions. The other is to adapt to the changes that we can't now do anything about.
(24:43) We should be so dreadfully sorry about this for future generations, that we have already caused this problem and we can't do anything about it. And we are handing the world over to them in a worst condition then we received it. In terms of stewardship of the planet, we have let the future generations down.
(25:03) But what we can do is to think about ways that we can best adapt to those conditions. And that's thinking about the way that we build our cities, thinking about way that we farm our land, the crops that we use, the way that we share resources around the planet as well. Water scarcity is going to be a really big issue, and it needs international cooperation to solve this.
(25:20)The nationalism that's evolved over the last few years in many places, it really doesn't help this problem. We are better off working together. We only have one planet. It’s home to everybody. And we need to think about it and regard it in that way, and find solutions to planetary change in that same sense.
(25:43) Mary Kay Magistad: So is this something that governments need to do? What can individuals do? Like, should people start flying so much? What would actually make a difference?
(25:53) Martin Siegert: Well. So we get asked this all the time at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College. And for that reason, we put together a document called “The 9 things you can do about climate change.” You can check it out. Just search for it. It's the most popular thing we've ever done. I would have liked to tell you that all the polar research I do is the most popular thing at the Grantham Institute, but it’s not by a long way. It's “The 9 things you can do about climate change.” And it's because it tells everybody there's always something you can do. You can fly less, you can eat less meat and less dairy. It doesn’t say you have to stop eating it completely, but you can certainly eat less. You can think about how your house is heated and either turn down the thermostat, or put insulation in, or preferably both.
(26:33) You can think about where your investments are going. Many people will have a pension. And it's a lot of money that you put into your pension. But I’ll bet you don't know who's investing your money. And you should do. It's your money, and you should have a say about how it gets invested. And if you care about the future and the planet, you probably want that in the industries of tomorrow, renewable energies, for example. But there's no guarantee that your pension is doing that for you. So taking control over your money is an important thing. Telling your politicians, your political representatives, that you care about this problem. They’re there to work for us. But they can only do that if we tell them what we feel.
Talk to each other about this. This is a problem that we share, but it's no good if we just keep it to ourselves individually. A lot of people say, “well, I, on my own, it doesn't actually make any difference what I as an individual do, because it’s so minute.” And it’s completely true. Of course, that’s completely true. But of course, if everyone has that attitude, then we don't make any progress. But if everyone understands that they make a minute contribution, but that minute contribution multiplied millions of times, can make the difference, that’s why we need to rethink about our contribution to society, that we don’t live outside of it. We don’t live as individuals. We live as part of society. And we all play a part in making it successful and handing it on to the next generation in a condition that will allow them to do the things that they want to do, as we’ve been privileged to do.
(28:00) Mary Kay Magistad: So you've spent your professional life looking at what the past can tell us about where our climate has been.
Martin Siegert: Yes.
Mary Kay Magistad: And it can tell us something about where our future might be. As you're looking at this and you're seeing what's happening politically, and you're seeing what's happening in terms of the current level of awareness of climate change, how hopeful are you that we're going to turn in the right direction quickly enough that we avoid the worst of what might come?
(28:30) Martin Siegert: I spend my days with both hope and despair. Despair, when I look at senior politicians and the lack of action that's been taken. The words come out, but the actions don't, they don’t happen. It's sort of shameful actually, that it is that way. And so, I despair at that. And yet, because I work at a university and I'm surrounded by young people, and I look at them and I think they've got 30 or 40 years of career ahead of them. And they're going to be dedicating their career to the zero-carbon transition – young people that are passionate about the climate problem. You know, the most valuable commodity that someone has is their time. And they want to dedicate that to this great cause. And that's what gives me hope every day because I just see it.
That’s Martin Siegert, glaciologist, professor, and co-director of the Grantham Institute, which focuses on climate change and the environment, at Imperial College London.
Thanks for listening to the COAL+ICE Podcast, a production of Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations, where Orville Schell is director, and I’m associate director -- and the editor and producer of this podcast. Our assistant producer is Taili Ni. The curators of the COAL+ICE photography exhibition that inspired this podcast are Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas, and Dutch exhibition designer Jeroen DeVries. You can find out more about the exhibition and event series coming to the Kennedy Center, March 15th to April 22nd, at coalandice.org. And if you like the podcast, please rate us and leave a review on Apple Podcasts.
Next up on the COAL+ICE podcast – more ice, but this time – in the Himalayas, where glaciers feed 10 major rivers in Asia, and food systems that feed some 3 billion people. And those glaciers are melting fast too. Want to hear what that means for more than a third of the world’s population? Hit subscribe, and keep listening to the COAL+ICE Podcast.