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Adventurers, Youth Unite for Climate Action

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James Balog presents time-lapse photography from his Extreme Ice Survey at the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It is day three of the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen. I’m here leading Expedition Copenhagen with a team of young people from across the American midwest.

What strikes me the most about this historic event is the incredible diversity of the people who have congregated here to influence the outcome or observe the process—from the more than 1,000 youth from across the globe (500 from the United States alone), to the large presence of civil society (including NGOs, independents, and new media), to fellow eco-adventurers who share similar lifestyles and goals to my own (here at the conference, as am I, to communicate and educate on their experiences, and to promote climate solutions).

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Youth from more than 100 countries gather for the fifth meeting of the Conference of Youth in Copenhagen.

I reconnected with Roz Savage, ocean rower from the United Kingdom, who walked here with Alison Gannett, free skier and founder of the Save our Snow Foundation. Similar to myself, they have been on the front lines of global warming, seen the changes firsthand, and (through their sports) heard stories from those who are experiencing the consequences closest to home.

The U.S. Center in Copenhagen is hosting a number of science sessions, many of which focus on the Arctic impacts of climate change. Photographer James Balog (who is founder of the Extreme Ice Survey, and whose startling NG-grant supported work has been reported by National Geographic magazine and featured on the PBS series NOVA) is here, sharing his time-lapse photography of melting glaciers. His presentation ground-truths the science and brings a stark reality to the rapid changes happening on the world’s glaciers as a result of climate change. In Greenland, for instance, the Illuissat glacier lost almost three-fifths of a cubic mile of ice—equivalent to 3,000 times the volume of the U.S. Capitol building—in a single 70-minute calving episode.

Balog captured this all on film.

Each of these adventurers is using unique methods—from traveling with skis, to rowing across vast oceans, to documenting the disappearance of Arctic ice and snow, to my own dogsled expeditions—to communicate how climate change impacts our planet. We all feel the incredible urgency of immediate action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

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The World Wildlife Fund’s Copenhagen Ice Bear represents the detriments to the Arctic and wildlife as global warming continues to accelerate glacial and sea ice melting.

Photographs by Jamie Horter

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