Interview with Glaciologist Dr. Heidi Sevestre

Heïdi is a Glaciologist who, in April 2021, led the first carbon-neutral science expedition in the Arctic in modern times. Her research provides invaluable information on glaciers, such as black carbon particles, which could be vital in preventing further glacial melting and rising sea levels. In addition, Heïdi advises governments worldwide on questions regarding glaciers and climate change.

Why is it important for individuals to put pressure on politicians?

Fighting climate change requires global action. Today, we know that the biggest roadblock to climate action is political will. The youth is asking for urgent changes. The general public does not understand why we do not promote the solutions that already exist. We are ready. Sadly it appears that most governments do not understand how criminal delaying climate action is. Climate inaction will cost us (economically, and in lives lost) so much more than if we acted right now.

What can we hope to achieve by pressuring politicians?

I think that not only we need to keep holding them accountable (192 countries have signed the Paris Accord, promising climate action), but also educate them. There’s a giant generational gap in the knowledge that politicians have on the issue. Through my work I try to make the science as accessible at possible to policy-makers, but I know we can do so much more. We must never give up. What I am convinced of is that today we cannot vote for someone who does not respect the work of scientists and who is not aware of the scale and magnitude of the crisis we are in. What we can hope is efficient, inclusive, and global climate action. In short, we need to drastically reduce our greenhouse gaz emissions. The solutions to do that already exist. But sadly most governments drag their feet to implement them. It’s about time that we take the power back and do not let someone else decide our future on our behalf.

What kind of action do we need to take to bring about structural change?

First: vote! Vote for local, regional, and national elections, for someone who wants to give us a future, and who will value science in the decision making process. Secondly, be involved! If you cannot find a candidate who shares your values, then be that person! Peaceful activism is also crucial today. The more people we have in the streets asking for structural changes, the more (hopefully) our politicians will want to act. Finally, we need national plans to improve climate literacy. Everyone should have access to this knowledge. And as soon as someone understand the scale of the issue, they instantly are pulled into action. It is unacceptable that a report like the latest IPCC reports gets published and ends up straight on a self. It should be combined with an ambitious communication plan.

Can you tell us more about your last expedition ?

At the end of 2021 I took my team from my project The Last Tropical Glaciers to Colombia for three weeks of fieldwork in the country. Yes there are glaciers in Colombia 😊! Tropical glaciers are found on the tallest mountains in the tropics, straddling the Equator. Sadly, because of our greenhouse gas emissions, most tropical glaciers will disappear before the end of the century. Some, like the ones in Colombia, much sooner sadly. The goal of our project is to create a digital archive of these landscape and produce immersive and interactive 360° video content to improve climate literacy. Together with the glaciologist Dr Jorge Luis Ceballos and Cumbres Blancas Colombia we installed time lapse cameras to monitor the rapid changes in ice cover, flew drones to 3D map the glaciers, and also collected a huge amount of 360° videos for our digital experiences. While I am always impressed by the drive of Colombians to save their glaciers, we were shocked by how much the glaciers had changed since the last time we saw them back in 2019. We cannot save the glaciers of Colombia but every step we take in the right direction will help preserve the ice we have in other places in the world, like in the Himalayas, in the Alps, Scandinavia, and at the poles. Saving the ice is literally saving ourselves. These glaciers are our most precious water resources. These glaciers control the sea level. They are the source of life in so many tropical regions of our planet. Let’s act. NOW!

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