Fw: [fuelcell-energy] Arctic Exploration "The Ice Is Melting Incredib ly Fast" Interview
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"The Ice Is Melting Incredibly Fast"
Nowhere is climate change as dramatic as in the Arctic. The German
explorer Arved Fuchs has undertaken a number of expeditions up north.
In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he explains why time is running
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You have led quite a number of exhibitions to the
Arctic since 1979. In your lectures you stress how much the region
has changed in the last few years, and put this down to climate
change. Many scientists say this is not a credible position -- don't
they have a point?
Fuchs: No. The information we are collecting agrees with what all the
climate models and satellite data are showing. The Arctic is warming
up quickly and the ice is melting incredibly fast. In previous
expeditions, there were three occasions in a row when the Northeast
Passage was so frozen over that it prevented us from getting through.
But then in 2002 we had no problems sailing from the North Pole along
the Siberian coast all the way to Alaska.
PHOTO GALLERY: WATCHING THE ARCTIC ICE MELT
Click on a picture to launch the image gallery (11 Photos).
SPIEGEL ONLINE: And you believe that is without doubt a consequence
of global warming?
Fuchs: In 2002 experts said the thawing of the Northeast Passage was
simply the result of a natural extreme in weather conditions. Today
we know that this wasn't an exception. Everywhere on our travels, we
have seen melting permafrost. It is a terrible feeling to see how
fast the Arctic is changing.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: A lot of scientists are reluctant to connect
individual observations in climate change with global warming. Do you
work together with scientists?
Fuchs: We have been out in the field with oceanographers to measure
deep-sea temperatures for the BSH, the German government's
organization for shipping. In other cases the main point is to gather
and store data. That is a service I always offer because it makes
sense to use our resources that way. But some scientists are scared
of being involved.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How do they make these feelings known?
Fuchs: I am often described as an adventurer and so a lot of
scientists view me as not competent enough. But that is not always
the case. Young scientists in particular are generally not so
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What are you able to do that high-tech research ships
Fuchs: Research ships, such as the "Polarstern" are very expensive
and have to complete a tight program on their missions as quickly as
possible. For us that is not the case at all. We are based in the
Arctic and can do things differently there. We can observe
developments over a longer time period. That's why I do think that we
have a meaningful contribution to make. But scientific research is
not the only aim of our expeditions.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What drives you to repeatedly head out into the ice?
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Fuchs: I have always been very inquisitive and have always had fun
living out in the wilds. We also want to document what is happening.
By doing this we can give a human dimension to the changes taking
place in the Arctic. We don't only show columns of figures, although
they are important too. This way allows us to tell people about the
effects of climate change.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: You say that you didn't like Roland Emmerich's
Hollywood film "The Day After Tomorrow," because it was too lurid for
your tastes. By emotionalizing the topic of climate change, aren't
you guilty of doing the same thing?
Fuchs: I wouldn't say so. We simply document what is happening. We
are not making feature films. We don't make up scenes or build
something which doesn't exist in the natural world. We try to reflect
fairly the complexity of the topic -- of course you also have to make
the issue universally intelligible.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Many industrialized countries, first and foremost the
USA, aren't doing enough to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Other countries, with huge populations, have yet to really address
CO2 emissions. Do you think that climate change can actually be
stopped before the catastrophe hits us?
Fuchs: I am very pessimistic. Many scientists have finally readjusted
their predictions -- towards more threatening scenarios. It is simply
sickening that the USA, which has 5 percent of the global population,
emits 25 percent of the world's CO2. And I don't think a change in
mentality will happen quickly in the USA -- especially not with the
present administration in charge.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In 1989 you were the first German to reach the North
Pole on foot. In a few years people will probably need boats instead
of boots to get there. Are you glad that you weren't born 30 years
Fuchs: Very often I am asked the opposite question -- whether I
didn't wish I lived at the beginning of the 20th century, at the same
time as the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, when there was still
new land to be discovered. I think that we are now living in an
amazingly exciting time. But at the same time you are right: the
North Pole expeditions that I have made will probably not be possible
in a few years time.
Interview conducted by Markus Becker
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