Greenland's Melting Ice Sheets: Climate Change's Disastrous Effects | Rolling Stone
...The chopper touched down on an unremarkable stretch of rocky tundra about the size of a Walmart parking lot, and Box jumped out, followed by a videographer. “Welcome to New Climate Land,” he announced and then launched into a giddy, erudite stand-up monologue for the camera that would have made his high school science teacher proud. “For thousands of years,” he explained, this spot had been covered by a tall building’s worth of ice and snow. But now, in the past few months, the final traces of that ancient ice had disappeared. “We are likely to be the first human beings to ever stand on this piece of ground,” Box said excitedly.
...He also believes that the climate community is underestimating how much sea levels could rise in the coming decades. When I ask him if he thinks the high-end projections of six feet are too low, he doesn’t hesitate: “Shit, yeah.”
“Jason has one very important quality as a scientist,” says Thomas Painter, a research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “He is willing to say crazy stuff and push the boundaries of conventional wisdom.”
...many scientists are predicting an ice-free Arctic by the end of the decade. Not so long ago, the Northwest Passage, the storied northern route from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, required an icebreaker ship to navigate it. This summer, people are attempting the passage in a sea kayak.
Ice is melting for a simple reason: “The Arctic is warming faster than any place on Earth,” says Konrad Steffen...[Box] was expelled from prep school near the end of his senior year when evidence of marijuana was found in a urine test...“Jason was one of those guys who could drink hard and party at night and then get up early in the morning and go to an intense science class,” Leslie recalls. At Boulder, he bounced from computer science (“too nerdy”) to astronomy (“amazing but not down-to-earth”) to geology (“too slow”).
“I like ice because it’s nature’s thermometer,” Box tells me over musk-ox pizza at a restaurant in Kangerlussuaq, the base camp for many scientific expeditions onto the Greenland ice sheets...“We are creating a different climate than the Earth has ever seen before.”
...“For most scientists, publishing a paper is a masturbatory act,” Box tells me. “A few people read it, you feel good, and then it’s over. It has no influence on policymakers; it does nothing to increase public understanding of what is happening to the climate system.”
While he worked, Box and I talked about how he keeps his balance, knowing the many flavors of catastrophe the world faces as it rapidly warms. “I am a scientist – I try not to get emotional about it,” he said, although he admitted that one of the reasons he took the job in Denmark is because he believes it’s a safer place for his daughter, who is 21 months old, to ride out the storms of the future. “On the other hand, I don’t want to look back and say I didn’t do everything I could to help people understand the risks we all face.”
As it turns out, this summer, Greenland’s glaciers are heating up at a pace that’s substantially below last year’s record melt – a fact that Box says “just adds complexity” to what is going on in the Arctic....Later that night, after Box had a few sips of Greenlandic whiskey, he talked about his dream of forming a Climate Delta Force, funded by philanthropists, which could be dispatched to study climate catastrophes in real time. “Give me two and a half million dollars,” he told me, “and I could change the world.”