A Journey to The Arctic

Some say there’s no better place to understand the impact of climate change than Earth’s Northernmost region, The Arctic. Now a show called True North, ┬áLaunched by online news network The Young Turks takes viewers on a journey through this remote and rapidly changing region. Co-host of True North John Iadarola joins Hari Sreenivasan via Google Hangout to discuss his adventures.


Some say there's no better place to understand the impact of climate change than Earth's northernmost region, the Arctic.

Now a show called 'True North,' launched by online news network The Young Turks, takes viewers on a journey through this remote and rapidly changing region.

Co-host of 'True North' John Iadarola joins us via Google Hangout to discuss his adventures.

First of all, that sounds like an amazing reporting trip, and even the trailer shows you having way too much fun to get paid for it.

But I guess big picture-wise, after having done the trip, what did you learn?

Well, I now have a lot more context for the statement and the truth that the Arctic is being impacted by climate change at a faster rate and in different ways than the rest of the world.

I got to see it with my own eyes.

I got to speak to people who have lived and grown up in the region, people who have worked for decades as scientists or as sailors in the region.

And it is very true -- things are heating up fast there.

The geography itself is being perhaps irreparably changed.

The flows of water are different.

The migration routes of different animals are different.

So a lot is changing there, and I was able to see it, thankfully, with my own eyes.

You were on a research ship for a while.

What were those scientists studying?

Well, it was an international crew, and in the same way that they had a diversity of origins in terms of national origin, they also were working on different areas.

All of it had to do largely with climate change in one way or another, but some of the scientists were doing some of the initial work on deploying of experimental underwater gliders that are able to autonomously collect data for weeks at a time, but they're very delicate, and so one of the sort of dramatic arcs of a couple of the episodes of the show was our quest to recover it -- the fear that it had been destroyed by ice.

Some of them were doing pretty complicated mapping of dozens of different variables at hundreds of different points along the depth of the ocean to map out temperature and density, conductivity, all of that, to get an idea of how changing water patterns and things like that in the Arctic... Some people were doing mapping of ice floes and things like that, so there was also... There was one biologist on the ship.

They represented a lot of different scientific disciplines, but all of them had to do with water and with climate change.

So, these scientists are trying to put numbers and hard facts onto this.

You also had a chance to talk to some of the indigenous peoples that have lived there for generations.

What have they been noticing in their kind of longer history there?

There's been a few different things.

As I alluded to in the intro, the geography is literally changing.

There are areas where maps are continually going out of date because the glaciers just aren't in the positions that they used to be.

The retreat has been pretty drastic.

We did an episode of digging fossils in areas that you wouldn't have physically been able to get to 10 or 20 years ago.

And so for the people who've lived there for multiple generations, they can say that they're able to go into some areas that they couldn't before, the mountains themselves look different, and so in a way, it can be an aesthetic change, it can be a geographic change, but it's also significant in terms of there are areas where housing has become uninhabitable because the permafrost is literally melting out from under these buildings.

Lives were lost in Svalbard just a few years ago when an avalanche destroyed some housing.

And there've also been concerns about the re-release of previously frozen and trapped viruses and things like anthrax.

Those obviously are a concern for their effect on human life, but especially for the native people who do things like reindeer herding, they've absolutely devastated the populations of reindeers in a lot of areas of the Arctic and Russia and things like that.

Now when you bump into, online or in real life, a climate-science denier, what do you tell them?

Well, it is difficult.

What I think is important is to acknowledge that climate-science denial comes in a couple of different varieties.

There are some people who I believe are influenced in that direction to hold that set of beliefs because of economic concerns.

They've been convinced that if we are to take climate change seriously and take the solutions that are necessary seriously that that'll harm jobs or economic growth.

And so if you can identify that sort of climate denial, I think you can try to make the case that doing something about climate change in terms of transitioning to cleaner energy and things like that -- this is not necessarily something that's just going to threaten jobs.

It's an area where any number of new industries could be developed where jobs could be grown as well.

There are some people that take it as sort of a religious stance.

I've found that personally a lot harder to actually do anything about.

But humans do have to live on this planet.

And I have found that if you focus the conversation in some cases away from climate change and more to fighting pollution, fighting contamination of the water and the air, those sorts of things, people's natural instinct for self-preservation, for the health of their kids, can sometimes override these other concerns.

All right.

John Iadarola, co-host of the show 'True North,' thanks so much for joining us.

Anytime. Thank you.