The New Zealand Antarctic Research Institute is a trust that is engaged with the fact that Antarctica finds itself at the frontline of the impact of climate change. While a number of governments undertake research and participate in the Antarctic Treaty, NZARI is concerned with accelerating the research that transcends individual government interests. The impact of a warming globe on Antarctica and the resulting impact on southern ocean species and rising sea levels. We are in a unique position to deliver research outcomes because the New Zealand government is very supportive of public private partnerships and will match every dollar we can raise for this important work with additional research support as well as logistics support for our Antarctic expeditions.
Recently, we launched a major research effort to investigate the Ross Ice Shelf – the largest floating glacier in the world and the buffer between the cold ice sheets and the warming ocean. We have also initiated a monitoring programme at the northern-most limit of the Ross Sea to provide early detection of changing ocean and climate in Antarctica. NZARI is also engaged in drawing key stakeholders into the challenge – media, governments, and educators – through our winter school and TEDx talks.
Why more research? Antarctica falls in the gaps of our understanding. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change only refer to Antarctica in passing, when the panel noted that their advice on future climate change did not include any unpredictable response from Antarctica. Yet, Antarctica will produce the majority of sea level change and change to the marine food-web. We know that Antarctica responded at previous high levels of atmospheric CO2, but that all happened much more slowly. This time the rate of release of CO2 to the atmosphere is unprecedented, and we are left asking when will Antarctica’s ice sheets and ocean catch up? That’s the critical question that policy-makers need answered to accelerate our actions or plan for adaption.
To deliver its science programme, NZARI has launched a prospectus to raise $50 m (over 5 years) to deliver its targeted research outcomes and we’d be very keen to share that and further material with any interested folks who can help us make a difference to this most challenging and global problem. Our scientists are up to the challenge and spend many weeks and months away from family enduring hardship to get these answers. Hopefully some of your readers can help us deliver in time for our children.