Glaciers are loud. Deep layers of ice crackle and scrunch as the ice shifts under its own pressure, but the monumental sounds of freezing terrains are falling more and more silent. Globally rising temperatures are causing glaciers to melt, and in the Arctic region a new record was reached in 2012 when, according to the World Meteorological Organization, an area of ice larger than the continental United States vanished between the months of March and September.
The president of Iceland Olafur Ragnar Grimsson is part of a #dld13 panel to discuss the effects of changing climate and weather patterns. With melting glaciers on Iceland’s doorstep he has to think innovatively about the changes they might bring, especially as thawing glaciers have caused regional shipping traffic to rise as well. The increasingly ice-free route allows cargo vessels to make their journeys between Europe and Asia faster, it is already being compared to the man made Suez and Panama Canals, which had transformative effects on the world economies in the past two centuries.
President Grimsson is joined on the panel by another man who sees weather patterns as a defining feature for our future. David Kenny is Chairman and CEO at The Weather Company, which brings weather forecasts and meteorological information to millions of people, on a daily basis via The Weather Channel and weather.com. The company saw a turbulent year in 2012 as several storms hit the U.S. and people reached for their phones and tablets to stay updated. The weather channel app was downloaded by more than 100 million users. Kenny says that changes in the earth’s climate require us to “manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable”, as he thinks that studies on climate change predict more extreme weather events in the future.
Typhoons, floods and droughts have turned weather from being a topic for small talk into a breaking news story. The media coverage of extreme weather events like hurricanes and tsunamis often miss the connection between weather and climate change though. Raising awareness and generating an understanding of these connections is an important first step in Johannes Meier’s work, he is the CEO of the European Climate Foundation (ECF). Two weeks after he started his job at the philanthropic foundation the Fukushima disaster happened. A need for fundamental changes in the climate policy context followed, Meier says: “We want to build confidence that a safer future is technically and economically possible for our planet. The challenge is to translate this confidence into action at all levels of all societies.”
The weather may remain a less predictable daily occurrence, but science around climate change is firming up and the ECF aims to “promote climate and energy policies that greatly reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions and help Europe play an even stronger international leadership role in mitigating climate change.” At the moment efforts for a green economy approach that takes climate change seriously are struggling up a steep hill. Developing nations are unwilling to jeopardize their economic prospects, and in climate summits like Rio20+ have ended inconclusively. The climate panel at DLD13 looks at climate change and what it means to society, politics and business, with DLD’s focus on how technology and data can help manage the seemingly unpredictable.