This week, the Otago Museum Science Engagement team and the Far From Frozen exhibition travelled to the Cook Islands. In partnership with the US Embassy in New Zealand, and with support from Air New Zealand, we are hanging out with more than 500 local students, talking about why Antarctica is so critical to the health of our oceans, and how we can all help to fight climate change.
The Cook, and other Pacific Islands, are facing the brunt of the repercussions from climate change. It’s awesome to see how proactive these Pacific nations are being to help guard their natural environments and citizens against more intense cyclones, ocean warming and acidification. It is also a timely reminder to bigger countries that their actions are having serious consequences.
Did you know that Antarctica is pivotal in keeping our ocean currents regular, and it is ice melting off the ice sheets and shelves in Antarctica that will raise our sea levels? When this ice melts, it is not only the sea level that rises, but it also changes the salinity of the surrounding oceans. This change has real flow-on effects, influencing currents and the environments of critical critters like krill. Krill live under the Antarctic ice and are fundamental to the entire food chains of our oceans.
There is lots we can all do to help slow the melt of Antarctic ice. Most of it has to do with limiting how much greenhouse gas we release into the air. The more we can reduce the amount of this gas in the atmosphere, the easier it will be for the Earth to regulate its temperature. We can all limit the amount of disposable items we use, change how we travel and encourage policymakers to work towards lower emissions targets.
The students we are talking with this week will be the generation that has to face the results of climate change and lead the charge for change. It will be through inspiring and engaging them with the challenges of climate change that we will develop solutions and enable future generations to enjoy and care for a planet that we can no longer take for granted.