PROJECT M
 

Climate change: Melting away under your feet

An ice-free North Pole could soon become reality. The consequences reach far beyond the Arctic

James Tulloch
© Plainpicture
Polar bears jumping melting ice

Climate change: Melting away under your feet

An ice-free North Pole could soon become reality. The consequences reach far beyond the Arctic

James Tulloch

wadhamsPeter Wadhams

Leads the Polar Ocean Physics group at Cambridge University studying the effects of global warming on sea ice, icebergs and the polar oceans. This involves work in the Arctic and Antarctic from nuclear submarines, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), icebreakers, aircraft and drifting ice camps. He has led over 40 polar field expeditions. He began his career in ocean science as a research assistant for a year aboard the Canadian research ship “Hudson” on the “Hudson-70” expedition (1969-70) which accomplished the first circumnavigation of the Americas.

What to do about it

Because the world is wedded to fossil fuels, Wadhams believes our only hope is geoengineering.

“Marine cloud brightening, where you inject water vapour into the bottoms of cloud to increase their reflectivity, could have an effect,” he suggests. This would increase the albedo effect, cooling the Arctic region. “If targeted right, you wouldn’t have to cool down the whole world to bring the ice back.”

Geoengineering methods like this can put a sticking plaster on global warming and protect us from its worst effects. But ultimately, the only way to save the world and bring us to a long-term sustainable climate future is to actually find ways of taking carbon out of the atmosphere (a process called DAC – direct air capture) at a reasonable cost. According to Wadhams, we need a massive research programme  on DAC – it is by far the most important field of research for the human race.

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