On October 6th, 2018, the United Nations released its most dire report on global climate change. It seemed as much a warning as a summary of the science. It stated that more than one and a half degrees C of warming by the year 2100 would have adverse consequences for most life on our planet. We’ve already experienced one degree of warming. Less than two months later, the UN’s emissions gap report made clear that the Paris Agreement is failing.
Warnings about our pollution are nothing new; scientists began discussing climate change in earnest in the 1970’s. Since then, over 90% of alpine glaciers worldwide have become recessional (see an example) and Arctic sea ice loss has exceeded 3% per decade. Winter itself is in decline - the frost free season has increased by more than two weeks in the United States since the early 1900’s. It’s no surprise then that someone born in the year 2000 has heard the phrase “warmest year on record” for almost every year of their life. Since I was born, an average of 3300 square miles of snow coverage has been lost in North America per year.
So, I have concerns. This may not be here much longer. Of course, there’s plenty of documentation that it was here, that it vanished quickly, that we did little to save it despite knowing how critical it is. We’ll miss this someday, and more than we know now. Beyond the damage to the Earth system lies another loss: the aesthetic of cold. So I became an educator. Now a photojournalist. I was a witness. Now an activist. I am an artist at the ends of the world, and this is my vision of the cold remnants of our planet.
Jon Van de Grift ASMP, New York USA