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May 2020 − Lab Lifestyle



I am standing in the spotlight of a science slam and saying in clear words – away from science – what I feel as a climate scientist.
But let’s start at the beginning: I am a geoscientist and I am researching molecular algae remains in the Antarctic. When ice algae die they sink to the bottom of the sea and remain there for thousands of years. By analyzing the bottom of the sea I can identify geological phases in which there were a lot of or few ice algae (and sea ice) present in the Antarctic and how this interacted with the global climate system. These findings markedly improve climate forecasts for the following reasons: if the sea ice retracts, the land ice begins to melt and sea levels rise enormously. This affects half of the human population as coasts attract settlements and we find food, resources and recovery.

The melting of the ice sheet is a process that occurs with a slight delay to global warming. Even if the cause was to be eliminated the great melting process would continue over centuries. Slowing down the warming is all the more important, there is no way back now. If no drastic measures are taken in this decade to protect the climate and if the climate system destabilizes it will be virtually impossible to influence the process. It means that mankind will have gambled away its last chance for a peaceful future.

The exploration of the sea and climate is my absolute dream job and to share this knowledge with a broad audience is my passion. When I explain what a dangerous game people are playing with their livelihoods, the question often arises: what can we do? The biggest greenhouse gas emissions come from the transport and energy sector, and it is difficult for individuals to change that. However, there is one way to become active today: calculate your CO2 footprint on the homepage of the Federal Environment Agency and reduce it to one ton of CO2 per year. You will see that your life will change fundamentally.


Maria-Elena Vorrath is studying for a PhD on the climate history of the Antarctic at the Alfred Wegener Institute. She uses Science Slams and lectures to explain what happens during global warming.




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