The Challenge

The desolate polar regions once abounded with vegetation and a multitude of animal life.

Samples of ice recovered from deep in the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps in recent years have revealed a fluctuating climate swinging abruptly back and forth between warming and cooling periods.

What are the factors contributing to climate change? Can repetitive patterns be identified? What impact has a changing climate had on living organisms and complex ecological systems? Can future changes be predicted and the consequences modified?

Drilling for ice cores and analyzing the high-resolution climate record is a well-funded activity sponsored by national and international research programs.

Discerning the patterns and triggers of rapid climate change is an interdisciplinary area that is not currently well-supported by governments or charitable foundations.

  • Fewer than 20% of the scientists applying to the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society each year are actually funded.
  • Only 3% of the grants made by charitable foundations in the United States last year were for science and technology.
  • Only 2% of the total amount of money dispensed by charitable foundations was awarded for science and technology.

The old divisions and barriers between scientific disciplines are breaking down. A new generation of researchers are working on the frontiers of geophysics, subglacial microbiology, and biogeochemistry. Exciting new information of inestimable significance may be elicited by practitioners of these hybrid specializations. But it will take a new model, a new paradigm of scientific exploration to ensure that the research is undertaken.