The Science of Climate Change

There appears to be enough evidence over the last century to indicate that global warming is taking place, though even this is still disputed by some. What is in greater dispute are its causes. There is some evidence that natural changes such as the amount of energy received from the sun, changes in the Earth’s orbit and changes in the way the ocean and atmosphere interact with each other and being compounded by anthropogenic changes in land use, a growing world population, deforestation and an increase in greenhouse emissions.

"I am speaking from an area of water that has never been water before. It has always been frozen solid. It is uncharted. There are no depth readings on the map because no ship has ever been able to measure them. No one has ever been anywhere near where we are now. We have sailed for the last 100 miles through open seas in an area that in the past would have only been accessible to the biggest ice-breakers. Now it is clear water."
Sir Peter Blake, Independent, 2001

The increased amounts of C02 in the atmosphere, as a result of burning fossil fuels, is blamed by many as one of the main causes. In 2005, burning fossil fuels released approximately 27 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere. However, there are alternative explanations that show how longer term climatic changes, both natural and anthropogenic, can occur for a variety of reasons. It is this interaction between human activities and the natural responses to our changing climate that needs to be fully understood.

World economies demand we continue to burn fossil fuels, notably coal, to deliver power at the cheapest cost. Rising CO2, methane and water vapour levels are the reason for global warming, and their continued release is threatening to push the world's temperature to dangerous levels. The potential climate instability could result in worldwide economic and social destabilisation, and concern for the welfare of the planet. The time scale of these environmental threats is in decades, a legacy for our children.

The scientific proof is there. However, we are not listening and the scientists are not finding ways to engage the public in their complex scientific discussions and debates. Through expeditions with artists, oceanographers, geologists, young people and teachers, the Cape Farewell team have developed an extensive series of work. By combining the arts, film, radio, journalism, scientific research and the adventure of the High Arctic expeditions, Cape Farewell are working with the international media to engage the wider audience in this thought-provoking debate.

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Dr Tom Wakeford 2005 / 78°N 11.5°E

Tom Wakeford "Today you will have almost certainly inhaled an atom of carbon exhaled by Julius Caesar, when he uttered the question 'Et tu Brute?' to his treacherous aide. Now multiply your breathing by the respiration of every plant, fungus, bacteria, human being and other animals. You do not need a calculator to conclude that organisms have, by their very existence, exerted a powerful influence over the global climate..."
Read the full blog post by Tom Wakeford, biologist and action reserarcher, from the 2005 expedition ›

Satellite image showing sea surface temperature (SST). National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
Satellite image of the High Arctic environment. Image: NASA.
Illustration showing sea surface temperature. National Oceanography Centre, Southampton
The Gulf Stream, a warm water current the size of 30 Amazon Rivers, flows north along the surface of the North Atlantic... as it reaches the Svalbard Archipelago it falls to the ocean floor, a sinking action that helps to drive the whole 'global heat conveyor'.
Dr Simon Boxall at the helm during the 2004 Art/Science Expedition
Artist Amy Balkin in conversation with Dr Simon Boxall during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
Dr Simon Boxall launching Arty Bob the ARGO float, during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
Emily Venebles and Dr Simon Boxall taking measurements during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
The science crew taking measurements during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
Launching 'Diskovery Bob' the ARGO float during the 2008 Art/Science Expedition
Dr Carol Cotterill and Dr Simon Boxall launch Arty Bob, the ARGO float, during the 2007 Art/Science Expedition
Studying landslides at Tres Cruces during the 2009 Andes Expedition
Tree sampling at Manu Learning Centre during the 2009 Andes Expedition
Yadvinder Malhi, Professor of Ecosystem Science, and crew during the 2009 Andes Expedition
Illustration showing sea surface temperature. National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

Illustration showing sea surface temperature. National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.