Richard Alley has spent a lot of time looking at ice.
The renowned geologist has traveled to Antarctica, Greenland and Alaska to study glaciers and the risk of rising sea levels, one of the biggest issues in climate change research.
He has spent weeks and weeks in the middle of an ice sheet and helped drill holes in the frozen depths to learn Earth’s ancient history.
His discoveries have led to groundbreaking advances in the understanding of rapid climate change and the stability of polar climates.
On Friday, March 2, Alley will be in Beloit to share stories about exploring ice, how and why he does it, and what he has learned about the relationship between ice and climate change.
He also might comment on “how exciting and beautiful the ice really is,” Alley said.
The glaciologist is the 16th recipient of the annual Distinguished Explorer Award of the Roy Chapman Andrews Society.
Alley, who describes himself as a longtime registered Republican, understands that climate change is a politically charged topic.
But he said politics should not have a serious role in climate science.
“Science is science,” he explained. “The science of climate change is solid. But a whole lot of good people have been confused by a few loud voices who are not accurate.”
Alley believes it is more important than ever “for those of us who understand to speak more clearly than ever before.”
He points to surveys by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication that show many people in the U.S. are worried about climate change.
Yale surveys also show that people believe there are smart ways to fix climate change, such as funding more research into renewable energy.
“When you realize most of your neighbors are looking for solutions, I think you need to say, ‘Let’s not call names but move forward,’” Alley said.
Researchers are focused on the Thwaites Glacier in Western Antarctica to help them better understand the uncertainty of how much the sea level will rise as the planet warms.
“We expect some rise with some warming,” Alley said. “The rise may be less or a little more—or a lot more. If the worst happens, the rise could be much higher than expected, maybe 10 or 15 feet more.”
Scientists are trying hard to understand the risks and possibilities, he explained. He called the science of climate change fascinating.
“But it is so serious that we really need to get it right, and we need to get it right fast,” he said. “Let’s have a real discussion about how we help people today and move to a brighter future.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.