John Moore in th garden surrounding the Arktikum house.
John Moore is still optimistic about combatting climate change.

Researcher John Moore believes that humanity holds the key to combatting climate change

16.8.2021 13:00

Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been melting at an accelerating pace over the past twenty years. According to the latest forecasts, sea levels will rise by more than one metre by 2100.

We need to find solutions urgently to prevent the Arctic and Antarctic ice from melting at an explosive speed and the permafrost from releasing methane into the atmosphere. Because if that happens, it will not be pretty, John Moore says.

Moore, 60, is a research professor in the Global Change Research Group and a geophysicist specialized in glaciology. He earned his PhD at the British Antarctic Survey in 1988.

At the Arctic Centre, Moore began as a special researcher in 1993. He has also worked as a visiting professor at the Polar Research Institute of China and was a visiting researcher at Beijing University for almost ten years.

Moore has studied the mechanisms of the climate system, sea-level changes and ice cover. He has done geophysical fieldwork around the world and developed geoengineering scenarios. He has studied the effects of climate change on the Antarctic ice sheet, Svalbard, Greenland, Tibet, and China.

As a research location, Antarctica is definitely the best of all. Three months in a tent, with another scientist. That is real life, says Moore, who learned to ski in Antarctica.

In the world of scientists and adventurers, Moore’s role models include American astronomer Carl Sagan and Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen.

Some of the places where Moore has done fieldwork no longer exist. The ice, which had remained stable for thousands of years, has begun to melt into the ocean, drop by drop. Places that used to be associated with adventure are turning into scenes of tragedy.

The annual melting rate of the Greenland ice sheet has risen from around 35 billion to 215 billion tonnes, from 30 billion to 147 billion tonnes in Antarctica.

Moore would like to slow down melting with geoengineering. This will give mankind more time to combat climate change. According to Moore, an effective way would be to prevent warm water from flowing to the glaciers by building berms. This could give the coastal areas up to a few centuries of additional time to prepare for rising sea levels.

Russian permafrost is a ticking time bomb. 1400-1600 billion tonnes of methane have been stored in permafrost. In the seabed, the amount is about twice as high. According to Moore, the release of methane into the atmosphere will be the tipping point for mankind. When this happens, we will have lost the game.

Mankind must take responsibility for its actions and not behave like a drunk driver on the road.

Together with his colleagues, Moore has been modelling for decades the ways climate change increases the incidence of extreme weather events around the world. A recent example is the forest fires in Canada and Siberia, which will most likely become more common as climate change progresses.

Although Moore has stared the more serious consequences of climate change in the eye, he is optimistic. Moore believes that humanity already holds all the keys to combatting climate change.

Moore notes that there is no other institute than the Arctic Centre that has combined multidisciplinary Arctic research of international significance so successfully. Yet Moore would like the researchers to get better funding and raise their profile. 

The Arctic Centre has a higher profile abroad than at home. The world knows that if you need Arctic experts, they can call us.

Moore says that he wants to increase cooperation with Russian permafrost researchers in the future. He knows a pair of researchers, father, and son, who have studied in Eastern Siberia for twenty-five years to find ways to slow down the thawing of permafrost.

The most important thing is to note that the situation is not entirely hopeless. Most people, especially young people, are well aware of what is happening. Climate change needs to be studied at the regional level and divided into smaller parts. We need to seek solutions piece by piece.

Text and photo: Johannes Roviomaa