Nature and Biodiversity

COP26: The Great Melt - tales from the front lines of climate change

COP26: The Great Melt - tales from the front lines of climate change: Adelie penguins are pictured at Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, in East Antarctica, January 6, 2010.

On thin ice. Image: REUTERS/Pauline Askin

Robin Pomeroy
Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum
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Road to COP26

This article is part of: Forum COP26 Live
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  • As COP26 opens, Radio Davos continues its coverage of climate change.
  • Veteran environment journalist Alister Doyle shares stories from the UN conference halls to the remotest parts of the Earth facing global warming.
  • Subscribe to Radio Davos.

"Here, by the shore, she tells us to listen to the very sound of global warming - the fizz as air trapped in icebergs floating in the sea bubbles out into the open air from the water. It's an entrancing hissing, popping sound that you have to strain to hear. And this faint ice symphony is a memorial to the ice: the air released in the bubbles is often hundreds of years old, from a time when carbon dioxide concentrations were much lower than the levels now." - Excerpt from The Great Melt.

Ever wondered what it's like to stand on the ice in Antarctica as global warming melts it beneath your feet? Or what about visiting residents of low-lying South Pacific islands that could disappear under the waves as sea levels rise?

Environmental journalist Alister Doyle has done that, and much more, as he has reported around the world on the impacts of climate change, tales that he has put together in a book The Great Melt: Accounts from the Frontline of Climate Change.

COP26: The Great Melt book cover
The Great Melt

Doyle has covered dozens of COP climate summits and meetings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where government officials pore over climate science, sometimes spending hours over where to place a comma.

But it is his reporting from the real world, where real people are being hit by climate change, that are the most compelling,

Map of Antarctics showing the Wilkins Ice Shelf
The ice shelf Doyle landed on broke off shortly afterwards.

"I've tried to go and talk to people on the front lines to see their experiences. People who are moving inland in Fiji, people who are planning to move inland in Panama, from the Caribbean, from low-lying islands, people up in the Andes who are threatened by glaciers melting," he tells Radio Davos.

Have you read?

While the places he travels too are remote, the stories told by the people there are closely linked to the global challenge of climate change and what is being discussed at COP26: How can small island states adapt? How will the world cope with mass climate change migration? Can companies be held legally and financially responsible for the impact of their greenhouse gas emissions?

plane with skis lands on Antarctic ice
To land on the ice, the pilot deliberately stalls the plane. Image: Alister Doyle

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