Climate scientists and tourists on a botched expedition to study global warming will have to plant an entire forest to offset their carbon footprint.
The Australasian Antarctic Expedition is finally safe and sound after being stuck in ice around the south pole for more than a week. The expedition was rescued by Chinese and Australian crews, who got the 52 climate scientists and tourists off the ship by helicopter. They were transported to the Aurora Australis, an Australian ice breaker.
The voyage and rescue emitted lots of carbon dioxide through the burning of fossil fuel — which climate scientists on the expedition believe is the main driver of global warming — so the expedition has promised to plant about 800 kauri trees in New Zealand to offset its contribution to global warming, reports APNZ.
Environmentalists argue that planting trees can offset carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.
The expedition’s promise to plant 800 trees may be too few. Rodney Hide, the former head of New Zealand’s ACT Party who now writes for the Herald on Sunday says that the expedition would have to plant about 5,000 trees to offset the fossil fuels burned during the rescue of the failed expedition.
“But there’s a bright side: the expedition was planting 800 kauri trees in Northland to cover their carbon footprint,” Hide wrote on Sunday. “By my calculations, with the ice-breakers and helicopters, that number could now be into the thousands.”
The Akademik Shokalskiy research vessel became stuck over Christmas in ice about 1,500 miles south of Tasmania with 74 climate scientists, tourists and Russian crew members on board. After one week stuck in the ice, the expedition was finally rescued.
The point of the expedition was to study how global warming had changed the Antarctic more than one hundred years after Sir Douglas Mawson made his observations of Antarctica. Ironically, the group was stalled by massive ice packs despite its being summertime in the southern hemisphere.
“We’re stuck in our own experiment,” the expedition said in a statement. “We came to Antarctica to study how one of the biggest icebergs in the world has altered the system by trapping ice. We followed Sir Douglas Mawson’s footsteps into Commonwealth Bay, and are now ourselves trapped by ice surrounding our ship.”
“Sea ice is disappearing due to climate change, but here ice is building up,” the group added. “We have found this has changed the system on many levels. The increase in sea ice has freshened the seawater below, so much so that you can almost drink it. This change will have impacts on the deep ocean circulation.”
Antarctic sea ice reached record levels last year, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, and ice coverage in November — the beginning of Antarctica’s summer — was reported to be “unusually high.”
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