restricted access 7 | Confronting the Choices: Scientists, Politicians, and Public Policy
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ç 7 Confronting the Choices: Scientists, Politicians, and Public Policy I n an earlier chapter, we referred to the impact of politics on the embryonic science of climatology during the formative days of the American republic. Two hundred years later, the tools and techniques of science have become far more sophisticated, while politics have become global and far more complex. However, the interaction between scientists and politicians to create public policy continues unabated , and much is similar today to the dynamics of those earlier times. The Ice Chronicles give scientists a great deal to think about, and are also a powerful policy-making tool. However, as we ponder what these records are telling us, and what should be done about their message, we must bear in mind that different political views are always clashing internationally and domestically over climate change in general and global warming in particular. These political perspectives cannot be eliminated in determining the best climate change policies. Indeed, they must be incorporated into the debate. Mayewski-White: The Ice Chronicles page 179 ç seeing clearly We usually travel into remote sites in Antarctica on board Hercules LC-130 aircraft. The National Science Foundation owns these planes, and up until recently they were operated by the U.S. Navy. Now, they are operated by the 109th Air National Guard from Scotia, New York.The 130s are remarkable. For “open field” landings (where there is no prepared surface), they can fly in and drop off up to about 20,000 pounds of personnel and equipment.That’s usually more than enough to equip our 100-plus-day traverses with everything we need: figure 7.2. First U.S. traverse of Northern Victoria Land, Antarctica. The snowmobile team is headed toward a small mountain range to study glacier activity as an indicator of climate change. Small glaciers like the one in the center of the picture are more sensitive to change in climate than the inland portions of the ice sheet onto which they flow. The small glacier is approximately .62 miles (1 kilometer) across and up to 656 feet (200 meters) thick, while the ice sheet on which the snowmobiles are pictured is approximately 1 mile (1,500 meters) thick or greater. This small mountain glacier and many others in the region have experienced retreat over the last few decades due to milder climate conditions (Mayewski and Attig, 1978; Mayewski et al., 1979). Photo by Paul Andrew Mayewski (1975). figure 7.1. C-130 aircraft landing with skis at a tent camp in the Transantarctic Mountains , Antarctica. Photo by Paul Andrew Mayewski (1982). Mayewski-White: The Ice Chronicles page 180 180 The Ice Chronicles ç snowmobiles, food, fuel, scientific equipment, and camping gear. They are the only such aircraft in the world equipped with landing skis, which gives the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) an amazing degree of access to most of the vast continent of Antarctica and the ability to bring in and out of the field large amounts of equipment and samples. When the aircraft lands in one of these remote sites, typically hundreds of miles from the main base, it is cold, at a high altitude, and above all, extremely noisy.The noise and blowing snow are produced by the four aircraft engines, which must be left running the entire time because it is so cold—shut them down, and they may not start again. The personnel and equipment are off-loaded from the tail of the aircraft. Then, the exhaust fumes, noise, and flurry of activity are suddenly gone as the aircraft departs for home base at McMurdo Station. We stand and watch the plane with mixed feelings, as our last physical contact with the outside world seems to dwindle in size and disappear. Standing there, the first thing you notice is the quiet—it doesn’t seem possible to have so little sound. After all, there isn’t even the proverbial “tree falling in the forest” that one might or might not hear. You look out over the vast expanse of ice, which at first seems featureless. Then, you notice that the landscape does indeed have distinct features. For example, there are small ridges and valleys in figure 7.3. Ice core boxes being loaded onto the rear of a C-130 aircraft during glaciological reconnaissance activities in West Antarctica. Photo by Paul Andrew Mayewski (1992). Mayewski-White: The Ice Chronicles page 181 Confronting the Choices 181 ç the surface snow or carved-out hollows from the wind...