The first solar powered TEDx event from Antarctica will be broadcast live from Paradise Bay on March 6. It's message: if alternative energy can work in the coldest, harshest, most unforgiving place on earth, it can be used anywhere.
The event is being spearheaded by Darren McGann from KPMG who has been inspired to tackle climate change since taking his first step onto the continent last year. He is one of 73 participants taking part in polar explorer turned environmentalist Robert Swan's 2012 International Antarctic Expedition.
Robert Swan OBE made the longest unassisted walk to the South Pole in 1984. Three years later, he went onto the North Pole and by age of 33, he became the first person in history to walk to both poles.
What started out "as an adventure to go boldly where no man has gone before" has evolved into a lifelong commitment for a continent whose future now hangs in the balance owing to climate change.
Air temperatures across the Antarctic have risen by more than 2 degrees celsius in the last 30 years. "It's the largest regional warming on Earth at this level," says Dr. John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey. And it's the western side of the continent that is heating up the most.
This dramatic pace of change could have devastating consequences for the rest of the world as the region holds enough water in its ice caps to raise sea levels by over 55 meters. That would leave major cities like New York, Hong Kong and London all underwater. Swan likens the Antarctic to a "canary in the coal mine."
The latest series of twisters to strike and tear across the U.S. partly stem from this year's milder winter and warmer start to spring. Regardless of what the climate change deniers may say, its effects are becoming increasingly loud and clear.
Last November, the United Nations issued a report predicting a rise in "wild weather" over the next century. The report considered the views of over 100 experts and took two years to complete. It states that "it is virtually certain that increases in the frequency and magnitude of warm daily temperature extremes will occur in the 21st century on a global scale."
The report came one week after the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that the world is on the brink of irreversible climate change. According to its research, global warming will hit the point of no return in five years time.
In a world of 7 billion inhabitants, this may only accelerate as more and more people require their energy needs to be met. According to median demographic estimates, by 2050 the world's population will hit the 9 billion mark.
A need for a global climate deal couldn't be more pressing. But, failure to strike a deal at the 2009 Copenhagen summit points to a world reluctant to ween itself off of carbon emitting energy sources. Moreover, the global financial crisis has turned the world's gaze away from the challenge of climate change.
But in this day and age, the economy and the environment couldn't possibly be more closely interlinked. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), in ten years time 1.2 billion young people will be looking for work, but there will only be 300 million jobs up for grabs. Innovating the green sector may be one of our best bets to solving both our environmental and economic woes.
In the words of Britain's former foreign secretary David Miliband: "We cannot let the age of austerity be the age of inaction. Reducing our dependence on foreign energy, investing in low-carbon infrastructure, and innovating and exporting green technologies are critical levers for reviving the UK's economy." Clearly, this applies not only to Britain, but to the rest of the world too.
In our great challenge against climate change, idealism must meet realism. As Richard Yemm, founder of Pelamis Wave Power in Scotland points out: "It's not just about environmental stewardship, it's about making a buck along the way too." Green energy represents an "economic opportunity" which will pave the way for our next industrial revolution.
So, returning back now to the solar powered TEDx event in Antarctica, let's hope that this broadcast from the most inhospitable place on earth will help move the issue of renewable energy forward. In Swan's own words: "I try to inspire young people on the issue by doing stuff .. not by talking, sending an email or passing along a YouTube clip... but by action."
Some say that the "future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." May all the team at the TEDx event in Antarctica believe in the beauty of their dreams. And may our world believe in the future of renewable energy, and in the beauty of our planet that gives us home.
March 6: TEDxAntarcticPeninsula took place at Paradise Bay, Antarctica. For all updates on this event, please follow the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/TEDxAntarcticPeninsula/260740667332237?sk=wall
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