Engaging Americans in the Challenge of Climate Resilience

Parker Liautaud

Parker Liautaud is being honored as a Next Generation of Conservation Leaders Champion of Change.

I believe that climate change is the defining challenge of my generation, and therefore I am honored to have been selected as a White House Champion of Change for Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders.

Global warming is caused by human activities  the science is settled. (NASA has compiled a web page dedicated entirely to clearly demonstrating the strong consensus.)

The effects of climate change are being felt by the American people, and in the future we can expect more severe droughts, wildfires, flooding, and storms. These changes have serious impacts on our economy, our public health, and the physical safety of our families. They put us all at risk, no matter where we live.

It is our collective national responsibility to urgently address climate change. No individual organization or person  whether a teenager, a corporation, or a Nobel prize-winning researcher — can single-handedly solve the challenge we face together. However, a unified nation that is fiercely committed to action can build on previous efforts by supporting policies that make all of our communities more resilient, today and in the future.

In order for this to be possible, clear and accurate communication of the science of climate change to the public is critical. Every American deserves to understand how their family and community are being impacted. One of the many ways this can be achieved is by harnessing new technology to bring people closer to the science and more engaged in an understanding of the ways in which the world is changing. This is something I have tried to do through my own recent efforts.

After my third expedition to the North Pole, I partnered with Willis Group, a global insurance and reinsurance broker, and created the Willis Resilience Expedition. During this Antarctic expedition, which took place in November-December 2013, we undertook field work for three climate research programs (which aimed to help further develop a technique for studying the climate system, and test a new Antarctic weather station), then trekked over 350 miles to the South Pole without external assistance. In addition to the scientific goals, the expedition aimed to communicate the climate challenge accurately to people across the country and around the world.

We reached the South Pole on December 24th, 2013, and in doing so set two records (the fastest human-powered trek from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, and, at the time, the youngest male to trek to the South Pole). The purpose of the record attempts was to create a mechanism through which to engage people in the need to set ambitious goals in addressing such a broad challenge, whether or not we actually achieve them.

Through the expedition, we created a daily 60-minute live broadcast that emanated from a purpose-built studio in London. Each show focused on a particular aspect of climate change or resilience (such as the impacts on businesses, the role of technology, or the economic benefits of addressing environmental issues), and engaged people in the issues that are affecting (and will affect) their communities. Each show also tracked the expedition’s progress and broadcasted live video from Antarctica. In all, there were 25 in-depth discussions with participation from leading experts in policy, science, industry, and other fields.

I have much to learn, and am deeply grateful for this opportunity. I am confident that we can collectively solve the challenges presented by a changing climate.

Parker Liautaud is a polar explorer and climate change campaigner studying Geology & Geophysics at Yale University. He recently led the Willis Resilience Expedition, an Antarctic expedition which reached the South Pole on December 24th, 2013.

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