I’m a diver who documents climate change: I’m running out of time

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October 9, 2019 - 10:18 AM

Iceberg tours off Ilulissat use local tour boats, Ilulissat, Greenland.

Nearly 20 years ago, I led a National Geographic diving team that made the first cave dives inside the largest floating piece of ice ever seen on our planet. The B-15 iceberg had calved from an ice shelf in Antarctica, and we were moved to explore the inside of what was regarded as a potential harbinger of global climate change. While I wrote the script for the accompanying documentary film, “Ice Island,” people cautioned me not to use politically charged terms such as “climate change” and “sea level rise.”

Scientists recently announced that the polar ice is collapsing faster than predicted. And every week, the headlines are filled with new warnings of accelerating ocean level rise. Climate change is happening. I have dived and documented it firsthand for decades. How we plan for it and adapt to it in the next few years will determine the future of our civilization. That’s what draws me to scuba dive under the ice in the northern reaches of my homeland, Canada.

According to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center, the Arctic is transforming more rapidly than anywhere else on Earth, with temperatures rising at twice the rate seen elsewhere. I am caught up by the urgency to document Earth’s fragile ice-covered geography — the cryosphere — hoping that my work will bring attention to the vulnerable, fleeting ice. The loss of nearly all Arctic sea ice in late summer seems inevitable, and an ice-free Arctic Ocean will probably arrive in decades, if not sooner.

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