Science in extreme conditions – Can data fix the climate? | DW Documentary


Working under extreme conditions in remote places, climate researchers are in a race against time. From alpine glaciers to the barren north of the Arctic or in the hot and humid tropics, they collect the data that could be our last, best hope.

The Arctic Archipelago is considered the world’s largest „laboratory“ for Arctic research. Some 2,000 people live here, on the Norwegian archipelago — alongside more than 3,000 polar bears. Scientist Annett Bartsch specializes in observing and surveying permafrost areas. Little is known about them yet, but they are thawing more and more every year. In addition, it’s believed that huge amounts of carbon may well be held here, in the frozen earth. As the layers thaw, it could lead to seepage that could gravely accelerate global warming.

Glaciologist Anton Neureiter, on the other hand, carries out a wide variety of measurements in the crevasses of Alpine glaciers – no matter what the weather conditions. The icy giants he studies have been retreating at an increasingly fast rate. As he explains in the documentary, the melting of the glaciers is both the result of climate change and a factor exacerbating it.

Next, we meet Anton Weissenhofer, who’s conducting research in primary rainforests in the hot and humid southern part of Costa Rica. He’s looking for seeds and seedlings suitable for the renaturation of deforested areas. The aim of his project is to preserve the rich biodiversity of the region, while capturing as much CO2 as possible.

The researchers featured in the film agree: When it comes to the Earth‘s extremely sensitive and complex climate system, scientific facts must form the basis for any debate over possible solutions. But, say all three, data alone will not solve the climate crisis — because data must be followed by action.

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