The Albédo Foundation for the cryosphere, an ambitious helping hand | Polarjournal
After the Arctic, the Antarctic show signs of weakness in the face of global warming. Image : Julia Hager Image : Julia Hager

A foundation to fund research projects of excellence in the cryosphere will be launched this evening in Paris in the hope of saving the poles.

Drilling the ice, adapting to change and defusing the disappearance of the poles as we know them. The Albédo Foundation for the Cryosphere will be officially launched this evening at the One Planet – Polar Summit, to fund and stimulate French research in the polar regions and at high altitudes.

Even though France, which is so attached to the Antarctic and the Arctic, is one of the most prolific nations in the world in terms of studies of all kinds – krill, albatrosses, fisheries, elephant seals, pack ice, glaciers, underwater cables, Inuit communities, etc. – French scientists work with few resources.

The French Polar Institute was in the red in previous years, which took its toll on staff, infrastructure and overwinterers. The latter have not failed to remind us of their rights in recent months.

It is in this area that the Albédo Foundation for the Cryosphere intends to bring some relief. Ten million euros will be put on the table this evening by Frederik Paulsen, who believes that French funding is not up to the polar challenge.

This Swedish entrepreneur is a great lover of the poles – so much so that he doesn’t count them as a duo, but as eight, distinguishing between the magnetic and the geographical, and the accessible from the inaccessible. At 4,000 metres below the North Pole, for example, you had to go there.

His philanthropy for science is nothing new. Frederik Paulsen supported the South Georgia ecosystem restoration project, which began in 2011 and was successfully completed in 2018. Image: The Arctic Circle

At this year’s Arctic Circle Assembly in Rekjavik, Frederik Paulsen gave Minik Thorleif Rosing “a small gift” of €100,000 to continue his work on the use of rock dust to sequester atmospheric carbon and improve Greenland’s agricultural soils.

Today, the Albédo Foundation grant for the cryosphere will be open to projects of excellence to extend the current exploits that French laboratories are carrying out in collaboration with the world’s leading experts.

Each project will be welcomed and funded, but only in part. For the projects to emerge fully, a second source of funding will be needed, to leverage funds.

Some projects are already in the pipeline, such as a large-scale international circumpolar operation, mobilising icebreakers and airborne resources as close as possible to the 7th continent.

At the head of its scientific committee are Jérôme Chappellaz, Yan Ropert-Coudert and Marie-Noëlle Houssais, the former and new directors of the French Polar Institute and the scientific delegate for polar affairs at the CNRS.

For them, results count. Investing in polar research programmes also means making sure that the stakes are worth the candle. The ambition is to gain weight on the international stage thanks to the results of these studies. We want them to feed into negotiations on resource exploitation, resource sealing and climate change, as well as developing tools.

Some solutions

The donor is also insisting on the development of technical solutions, which he believes are essential, as they will be part of the package of means to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

An idea that is sometimes contested by some of the political fringe of the ecologists. The latter denounce unfeasible or ineffective projects that merely relocate the problem. There is no miracle solution, for example, towing icebergs from Antarctica to South Africa to supply Cape Town with fresh water is still far from being a solution.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t work on the issue. The professional medicine we know was invented on ships, in particularly harsh conditions. The poles are harsh environments that force practitioners to find sustainable solutions.

Alternative and innovative energy production, optimised logistics, new forms of sobriety, solar propulsion, legal tools, a new way of observing the ocean…

Camille Lin, PolarJournal

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