Camping at -21 degrees! Lancaster University addressing Climate Change at World Economic Forum


Is climate change happening? Certainly! Can academics, entrepreneurs, world leaders, innovators, businesses and individuals do anything about it? Most Definitely!

On Wednesday 18 January 2017, leading pioneers came together at the annual ‘World Economic Forum’ event in Davos, Switzerland to discuss and tackle the complex social, economic and political challenges facing our world today.

Some of these issues include combatting terrorism, market turmoil, inequality, migration, poverty and health, amongst many others.

Professor Gail Whiteman, Director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business at Lancaster University and her team have gone a step further to address the crucial issue of climate change and tackle the plight of this inevitable catastrophe.

A basecamp was set up with the aim of bringing ‘the Arctic to Davos’ along with an Arctic Science Meeting, where Professor Whiteman stayed in a tent outdoors in Davos, with temperatures going as low as -21 degrees Celsius, as part of a research project to inform world leaders of the issue of melting sea ice in the Arctic and bring a message of change and risk at the World Economic Forum.

Running concurrently with the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, the summit is the result of collaboration between Lancaster University, British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).

2016 saw record-shattering temperatures and was likely to be the hottest year on record. At the end of October, Arctic ice was at its second-lowest point and so; there has never been a better time to discuss climate change than now.

In November 2016, parts of the Arctic region experienced unprecedented temperatures almost +20 °C (+36 Fahrenheit) warmer than normal. The Summit was a call to action to global leaders to apply this year’s Davos theme, ‘Responsive and Responsible Leadership’ to address global risks from Arctic change.

Their message to the Davos delegation, the world’s most powerful global audience, is to convey that ongoing temperature changes in the Arctic have serious socio-economic effects in the rest of the world. They offer their expertise to help political and business leaders shape the international agenda in order to address these negative effects.

Al Gore, Chair of the Climate Reality Project and Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, both spoke at the event.The summit was hosted in Arctic Basecamp style tents in the grounds of the SLF, close to the official delegate hotel, the Intercontinental Davos.

Professor Gail Whiteman, said: “The main objective is to explain why Arctic [climate] change poses global risks for societies and economies around the world,” “We know that science has important answers in assessing the global risks associated with the Arctic ice melt and we need to make this as visible as possible in Davos. Arctic change is at a critical juncture; hard choices need to be made. These must be evidence-based and not ideologically driven. Ultimately we want to see a new Global Platform for Arctic Action, and it starts here with this summit.”

Jeremy Wilkinson, BAS said: “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay there. The Arctic is the canary in the coalmine for the world’s climate. And it’s sending us a warning cry that has profound consequences and risks globally. Yet the Arctic remains invisible to the world’s most powerful decision-makers.  We want to change that.”

Direction of WSL, Professor ETH, Konrad Steffen, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow & Landscape Research WSL said: “The Polar Regions, as well as Alpine regions, will experience two to three times the mean level of global warming predicted for the future. We need to act swiftly to delay, or prevent, the loss of the ice masses in the mountains and the shrinking of the two polar ice sheets which will lead to unsustainable sea level rises.”

“You can’t shop your way out of Arctic change,” said Professor Whiteman. “You need systemic change across different levels.”

Climate change is an ongoing catastrophe and world leaders need to join hands to address this issue. Whatever comes of the Arctic Basecamp in Davos, we should be proud of Lancaster’s efforts to combat climate change from the roots of it and pledge to be a part of this movement. One can hope that at the very least, it provides a much needed reality check to world leaders, industries and individuals.


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