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COP15: Brains on ice

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During the December climate negotiations, a team from WWF will have an ‘Arctic Tent’ on a main Copenhagen square and we have invited lots of people to help tell the stories of arctic climate change.

In front of the tent, we have a life sized polar bear carved from ice, created by renowned wildlife sculptor, Mark Coreth, and we have a stunning outdoor exhibit by some of the top photographers working in the Arctic today.

By Clive Tesar

The speakers list for today read like a who’s who of arctic climate science – which I guess is understandable since it was Science Day in the Arctic Tent. Still, it was impressive that all these big names were assembled in a tent on a chilly Copenhagen Sunday afternoon because of their passion to bring their messages to the world.

Those messages all had a remarkable consistency, in that they all showed that changes the Arctic is undergoing are unprecedented, and that further, even more severe change is around the corner.

One thing that particularly truck me was a statement by the man regarded as probably the most senior arctic climate scientist of all. Bob Corell, the man who four years ago shocked the world with the Arctic Council-commissioned Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, told the world today that he expects to live to see an ice-free Arctic. Bob is seventy-five. Not long ago, the worst case scenarios said the Arctic would not be ice free in the summer for at least 100 years.

A large crowd gathered in the Arctic Tent to hear the Science Day speakers.A large crowd gathered in the Arctic Tent to hear the Science Day speakers.

Corell says there is nothing we can do now to prevent the arctic ice from melting. However, he also believes that this is not a time to give up hope, but a time to redouble our efforts to achieve a climate treaty over the next two weeks.

While Corell’s career as an arctic scientist is now firmly established, some of the other presenters today are still at the start of their scientific careers – neither is from the Arctic, but both of them found the pull of the plight of the Arctic so strong that they felt compelled to make it their focus. Their studies are focused on ice and snow, and as I listened to them today, I hoped that they would one day be able to stand on a stage, at Bob Corell’s age, and still have arctic ice and snow to study.

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