When considering what has impacted humanity’s place in world history, ice is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, in a discussion sponsored by the University of Michigan Authors Forum, Dr. Henry Pollack, professor emeritus of geological sciences, and Dr. Richard Rood, professor of atmospheric, oceanic and space sciences, will be leading a conversation centered around Pollack’s new book, “A World Without Ice.”
Authors Forum Presents: A World Without Ice
Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Room 100, Hatcher Graduate Library
In his book, Pollack draws upon years of research on all seven continents and writes about the impact ice has had on human civilization, the climate and landscape of the planet. He also studied the influence people have had on ice and the impending consequences that will come with a world without solid water.
Rood, who worked for NASA before arriving at the University, feels that ice is an appropriate vehicle to discuss climate change.
“Ice is the issue to focus on because of first its strong relationship to sea level, second because of its strong relationship to water resources, third because it is sort of a measure of a whole lot of integrated effects in the climate system,” he said.
Pollack’s extensive research, along with annual trips to Antarctica, have established him as an authority on the topic of climate change. In 2007, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with his colleagues on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former Vice President Al Gore, who wrote the forward to “A World Without Ice.” Pollack first began collaborating with Gore in 1991 at a U.S. Senate hearing on climate change. Since then he has taught community volunteers across the country how to educate people about climate change as part of a program initiated by Gore and based on his film “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Although Pollack calls Gore “a visionary,” he pointed out the detrimental effect politics can have on any scientific issue.
“Once an issue becomes politicized, you stop paying attention to the message and evaluate the messenger. Science gets marginalized, and that’s too bad,” Pollack said.
He also pointed out that political concerns often steal the spotlight from the impending problem of climate change.
“To me, it’s very natural,” he said. “With the economy in such bad condition, people’s number one worry is their jobs and they can’t keep something that’s 10 or 20 years down the road front and center. When the economy straightens out and people are less concerned about their immediate well being, climate change will come back.”
Rood agrees, and has made a point of discussing the conflict between science and politics on his blogs. He also points out that other political influence is more detrimental to the issue of climate change than the public’s overall awareness.
“To me, it’s not really a question of whether people know enough or not, because they’re more interested in the politics of it than they are in what I would call the knowledge-based evaluation,” Rood said. “It’s important to separate the science from the political problem.”
In “A World Without Ice,” Pollack focuses solely on the science of climate change and how the world’s ice is involved in the process, eliminating political viewpoints and subjective opinions. After all, “ice is a very impartial participant in climate change,” Pollack said.
Pollack and Rood will kick off the forum with a 15-to-20-minute discussion of the book, followed by a question and answer session.
Pollack feels that once Americans begin to focus more on climate change independently from politics, definitive steps can be taken toward mitigating its adverse effects, but for now there are too many people who are hesitant to take action.
“If you want to drag your feet, that’s OK,” he said. “But the train’s leaving the station and there’s only a small window of opportunity to get on that train.”