Antarctic Ice floating in the sea. Photo: David Vaughan

We’ve all heard the news — “Climate change is happening. Humans are making it worse. We need to reduce our carbon emissions.” But do we understand the science? And do we really believe that our actions can change what’s happening and make a difference?

Churchillian and Director of Science at the British Antarctic Survey, Professor David Vaughan argues that we now know human-induced changes to climate are real and we’re beginning to understand the science.

“What is particularly concerning is that the relationship is non-linear — a small rise in sea level dramatically increases risk.”

According to a recent Nature article, a global temperature increase of 3˚C will melt the ice shelves that support the continental ice sheets resulting in a collapse and dramatic sea level rise that will affect our descendants for centuries.

A small rise in sea level caused by a small rise in temperature, equates to major changes to the earth and to us. No more condos on the beach, no more agriculture in conventional farming regions, and fauna and flora landscapes that looks vastly different to now.

Monitoring ice sheets is thus a priority for the scientific community. It’s something that we should all keep our eye on.

Ice Sheets - David Vaughan

A British Antarctic Survey scientist collecting samples. Photo: David Vaughan

Churchill alumnus Professor Eric Wolff is an ice core expert in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Ice cores store a record of what happened in the past, extending so far back 800,000 years. Scientists use this information to better understand how climate change works and predict what may happen in the future. Analysis of ice cores enables scientists to determine what has happened, improve models and use the results to inform and advise policy makers.

Scientists are now beginning to understand climate change and the influence of human activity. While they are liaising more and more with industry and politicians, a recent Nature editorial claims that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) needs to do more to alert and inform the public about the effects of global warming.

— Sarah Fahle, Alumni Officer

Professor David Vaughan

Professor David Vaughan is the Director of Science, for the Natural Environment Research Council’s, British Antarctic Survey
Churchill alumnus UG Nat Sci ‘81


Professor Eric Wolff

Professor Eric Wolff is a Royal Society Professor of Earth Sciences at University of Cambridge Churchill alumnus PG Nat Sci ’75


Related Event

Ice Sheets and Climate Change: Past, Present and Future

November 4 2015, The Conservation Room, Royal Institute London.

Chruchillians and scientists Professor David Vaugn and Professor Eric Wolff talked about the earth’s climate past, why studying ice sheets and sea levels is important and what are the largest uncertainties and potential consequences.