Next week in Paris, a coalition of countries will meet to discuss the disappearance of the cryosphere and its consequences for mankind. Scientists from around the world will describe the current state of the cryosphere’s condition to policymakers. The main organisers – Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, Jérôme Chappellaz and Antje Boetius – are determined to put this ‘cold crisis’ on the international political agenda.
From 8 to 10 November, the One Planet – Polar Summit – initiated by Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, the French ambassador for the poles and supported by President Emmanuel Macron – is expected to extent the circle of signatory countries of the Ambition on Melting Ice, a coalition of 20 countries concerned by the state of the cryosphere, formed last year at Sharm el-Sheikh, during COP 27.
“We hope that 40 countries and international organisations will join us in Paris on 10 November,” said the French ambassador for the poles in Iceland on 21 October. The ambassador also hopes to attract the attention of China and the United States. The One Planet – Polar Summit will also result in a “Paris Appeal on Poles and Glaciers”, which will be extended at COP 28 in Dubai.
To ensure that the international community listens attentively, the summit must develop a message of high scientific value. “We are going to draw on the best knowledge available today to produce a report on the cryosphere in the broadest sense,” explains Jérôme Chappellaz, former French Polar Institute Director, glaciology researcher at the Swiss EPFL Lausanne and renowned for his scientific exploration of the polar regions.
This document will complement the latest reports from the IPCC and the International Cryosphere and Climate Initiative. “We’re going to put the spotlight on the tipping points where there are still major uncertainties,” he says. The report should be updated every two or three years.
The tipping points, the thresholds for each component of the cryosphere beyond which they are doomed to disappear, depend on the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere and not stored in the ocean or biomass. They are also influenced by the frozen ground, which warms up and emits CO2 and methane. These quantities are still poorly assessed. “This will largely determine what human societies can afford to emit in the future,” notes Jérôme Chappellaz.
The summit will identify the scientific questions that urgently need to be answered. “Physics, biology… but also the social sciences: we need to integrate the economy that revolves around the cryosphere. The impact of the loss of permafrost on infrastructure is a good example, as is the loss of water resources around the Tibetan plateau and China in both spring and summer,” says the researcher.
During the forum, “the subjects will be introduced by four or five selected people,” explains Jérôme Chappellaz. “Then the discussion will be open to the scientific audience in the room to complete.”
“It’s time to bring together all the components of the cryosphere that interact with humans. There will be group sessions on glaciers, the water cycle, sea levels, permafrost and geological hazards, the ocean, pack ice and life,” says Antje Boetius, Director of the German Polar and Ocean Research Centre.
“On November 10, we will have to present the Heads of State with a document that will serve as a reference,” added Jérôme Chappellaz, including a list of actions to meet the needs, at the heart of which will be the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
Around a billion people will be directly affected by the lack of fresh water by 2100, and a billion more by rising sea levels. “The summit will form the first political coalition on the poles and glaciers, and will shed particular light on sea-level rise,” adds the ambassador for the poles.
The countries that sign up to the appeal will support the establishment of a “decade of glacial and polar sciences” in Nice in June 2025, on the eve of the opening of the United Nations Ocean Conference. The coalition of cities, islands, regions and island states (Sea’ties) will meet at the same time.
In Paris, it will be an opportunity for France to boost its Polar Strategy. “There will be local spin-offs, as we are in the process of losing ground in terms of polar issues, so this is a lever to get funding back on track for French science in the poles and at high altitudes,” adds Jérôme Chappellaz.
The French President’s announcements will mention new resources in addition to the funding allocated to the Tara and Polar Pod projects, respectively 11 million and 20 million. “The reconstruction of the Dumont d’Urville Antarctic Station is planned, with a new unit about a hundred metres from the current station,” explains the ambassador. Not to mention the resources at sea. There may also be a budget for new scientific programmes.
The summit will emphasise the importance of the human sciences in responding to the dilemmas between exploitation and protection that will increasingly face developing local communities and the international community, in Greenland for example, or in the Arctic Ocean, when glaciers and ice retreat.
The French government is expected to call on its ministries by early next year to implement the polar strategy. “The One Planet – Polar Summit is a message in a bottle. Ideally, it shouldn’t be us who organize the next one, but another country,” the Ambassador hopes.
Camille Lin, PolarJournal
Link to Ambition on Melting Ice
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