• Question: Due to the amounts of air pollution, how long do you think Antarctica has got left before all of the icebergs have melted?

    Asked by jonnyv to David, Patrick, Matthew, Deepak, Alex, Aina on 10 Jun 2019.
    • Photo: David Wilson

      David Wilson answered on 10 Jun 2019:

      I don’t know
      One of the skills you learn as a scientist is how to interpret and understand data. This is useful because we’re being constantly bombarded by advertising, news and social media trying to convince us to believe or buy things. As a scientist you can have the skills and tools to look at the research or data yourself and to make your own mind up.
      I still probably wouldn’t fully understand something as complex as climate change but I have in the past looked at local air quality data to think about which areas or roads in my city were the worst for air pollution. A lot of this information is freely available it’s not hidden or locked away.

    • Photo: Alex Blenkinsop

      Alex Blenkinsop answered on 11 Jun 2019:

      This is a hard one, because any kind of prediction we make about the effect of pollution on the environment is dependent on some assumptions we make. We can be optimistic and base the predictions on pollution targets for the next few years, or we can be pragmatic and make a range of predictions for different scenarios. For example, that we continue polluting at exactly the same level for the next 50 years, or that it gets much worse. Then we have a range so we can understand the sensitivity of our predictions to our assumptions we have made.

    • Photo: Matthew Bareford

      Matthew Bareford answered on 21 Jun 2019:

      This is a difficult question to answer and predict. there are multiple things at play here:

      1 – weather patterns could affect the distribution of the air pollution across the globe
      2- Many countries are now changing their air quality via methods of reducing pollution, so this will then have a negating effect against how long in terms of time that it will take.
      3 – with the current movements at play on climate change and global warming, there could be break throughs in more countries worldwide in terms of reducing pollution and coming up with ways to help reduce the effects of pollution.
      4 – Advancements in technology and power mean changes in the types and amounts of air pollution
      5 – the weather patterns in Antarctica themselves could have an effect on any time scales too…

      I think in truth, a definite answer is impossible but current predictions would show that around 2100 would ne the approximate estimate for it to be gone completely, if the current trend in air pollution continues unabated (which from the above points, we would hope not to be true)