This book takes readers to Antarctica, the Arctic and the high mountains, to see what is happening to their ice, snow and permafrost. Ice and snow reflect solar energy back to space, keeping the planet cool. As global overheating melts them away, we are losing this refrigeration factor, which adds to global overheating. The author begins by laying out the evidence for carbon dioxide as the control knob of climate, and hence of sea level, for the past 1000 million years, before exploring the effects of climate change in the three main icy regions. He shows us how climate change will likely affect us and the planet as we approach the end of this century and beyond. His story ends by analysing how politics and economics are determining our response to global overheating, reminding readers of the enormous global challenges inherent in changing from a fossil fuel to a renewable energy infrastructure. There is no overnight solution. Can we save Earth's refrigerator? Will Net Zero work? Addressing these key questions Summerhayes is cautiously optimistic about our chances provided we have the collective will to act on what we know.
Chapter 1. Introduction
Chapter 2. Icehouse Climates
Chapter 3. East Antarctica - the World's Biggest Ice Cube
Chapter 4. West Antarctica and Dry Valleys
Chapter 5. The Antarctica Peninsula, the Falklands and South Georgia
Chapter 6. The Arctic
Chapter 7. The Third Pole - Mountain Ice
Chapter 8. Rising Seas
Chapter 9. Our Future
End Notes (references)
List of Figure Permissions
Colin Summeryhayes is a chartered geologist and Emeritus Associate for the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University. He previously served as Executive Director of the International Council for Science's Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research at the Scott Polar Research Institute. His most recent publications include Paleoclimatology (2020) and Earth's Climate Evolution (2015).
"In The Icy Planet, apart from offering the reader all they need to know about the world's coldest places, Colin Summerhayes addresses in well-researched and readable detail the role of ice as the bellwether of global warming. Fascinating and sometimes frightening, it examines the speed with which the frozen environment is being depleted, and the signals that sends out for the future of us all. This is a book both arresting and alarming."
– Sir Michael Palin, Writer and Presenter of Travel Documentaries including Pole-to-Pole and Erebus: The Story of a Ship
"'Out of sight, out of mind' is the view that most people have of Earth's vast expanses of ice. This book takes us on a fascinating tour of our icy realms, the critical role they play in the functioning of the Earth System, and the startling human-driven changes that are afflicting them – essential reading for anyone interested in the future of our planet."
– Will Steffen, Professor, Australian National University, Canberra
"Colin Summerhayes introduces readers to the significance of the changing character of ice within the regions of the 'three poles.' His unique perspective comes from a career in science leadership roles, where he was a keen observer of and synthesizer of emerging research. Along with a narrative related to his travels, the book provides a holistic understanding of ice and climate in a world which has only recently begun to realize the power of both."
– Paul Andrew Mayewski, Professor and Director, Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, USA
"Colin Summerhayes condenses the wisdom of a long career in polar and climate research to reveal the fundamental importance of Earth's refrigerator. The huge blocks of frozen water that cap the polar regions and high mountains may be remote from where most of us live, but have profound implications for all of us, in shaping our planet's climate, weather, water supply, and even food security, while also sustaining fascinating and unique wildlife. His first-hand account takes readers on a unique journey of appreciation for our world's coldest places."
– Tony Juniper CBE, Environmentalist
"Due to global climate change the large ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland influence the height of sea levels, while mountain glaciers influence the water supplies for surrounding populations. Melting permafrost changes ecosystems and creates significant natural hazards. Using his vast field experience, Colin Summerhayes draws attention to these dynamics and their effects on nature and society in an important book with a popular orientation."
– Heinz Wanner, Professor, Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern
"The increasing loss of the Earth's cryosphere is one of the most significant problem's facing humanity today. Dr Summerhayes has written a comprehensive book introducing the reader to the world of ice on our planet, how it responds and impacts climate, how it is the home to unique ecosystems, and most importantly, how ice and permafrost loss will lead to dramatic changes to our world."
– W. Berry Lyons, Professor, Ohio State University