Arctic explorer warns of climate-change evidence
Renowned Arctic explorer Will Steger has turned his passion for adventure to global climate change and clean energy because, he said, “We are all on an edge right now, and it’s an opportunity for us to think outside the box and learn what we can do.”
Will Steger has been places very few others have seen, exploring and pioneering since his childhood in Minnesota, always “seeking the edge.”
The renowned arctic explorer has spent some 45 years traveling more than 10,000 miles by kayak and dogsled, through some of the world’s most extreme terrain at both Poles.
“The edge is where you can have a true learning experience,” Steger said Wednesday talking about clean-energy issues with business and environmental interest groups.
These days, Steger has turned his passion for adventure to global climate change and clean energy because, he said, “We are all on an edge right now, and it’s an opportunity for us to think outside the box and learn what we can do.”
Steger conveyed his “eyewitness account of climate change” to a standing-room-only audience Wednesday night at the Museum of the Rockies’ Hager Auditorium, using photos and stories of his adventures from Antarctica to the North Pole.
“He and his work are truly extraordinary,” Rep. Phillips, D-Bozeman, said, introducing Steger to the crowd.
Steger described his routes across various frozen landscapes, and the endless dog-sledding, kayaking and kite skiing required to travel thousands of miles in areas where the wind chill averages 70 to 100 degrees below freezing.
But he said some of his old haunts have all but disappeared due to “drastic change in the arctic environment.” He showed maps of disappearing ice shelves and described places that have gone from dog-sled territory to canoe territory in less than a decade, “taking scientists completely off-guard.”
“The science is very confusing, but seeing the changes firsthand can be empowering,” Steger said. “And then we need to try and make those observations into solutions.”
Sometimes, Steger said, he feels as if he is preaching to the choir when he talks about climate change, so he makes a concerted effort to visit conservative areas where there is a lot of skepticism.
“Science is always a matter of percentage,” Steger said, “so nothing is ever certain, but I have witnessed these changes firsthand.”
To critics of climate-change science, he points out three interrelated issues that he said must be addressed equally: “the climate crisis, the economic crisis and national security.”
The shaky state of the global economy is one of the best reasons to support climate-change legislation, “no matter what side of politics you see it from,” Steger said.
“If we can become entirely self-reliant on clean energy, the billion dollars a day we spend on foreign oil would stay in our economy,” he said. “It would be like a free stimulus package every day.”
Obstacles in the political arena have come to define climate change, but Steger believes there will be advancements soon simply because “the clock has literally run out.”
“They’re too busy distorting the facts,” he said, pointing to a time-lapse video of a disintegrating ice shelf. “But our elected officials really need to see this.”
Pete Strom, CFO of PowerHouse Integrated Conservation Systems in Bozeman, attended the afternoon session and agreed with Steger.
“There’s the potential for 13,000 clean-energy jobs in Montana, but it’s critical that this happens now,” Strom said after the session.
A member of the Montana Business Leaders for Clean Energy, which has lobbied in Washington for clean-energy initiatives, Strom said the United States needs a “market signal” to incorporate climate change legislation into the free market, using cap-and-trade policies.
“China is already spending $12 million per hour for clean energy, and the longer we wait, the further we fall behind,” he said.
From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle