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Ground-breaking Climate Change Collaboration Awarded PM’s Science Prize

Dr Richard Levy and Dr Nancy Bertler at the Ice Core Facility, GNS Science

GNS Science is proud to be part of the Melting Ice & Rising Seas Team that has been awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Prize. 

The project is a ground-breaking collaboration tackling the link between Antarctic ice melt and sea level rise.

Led by Professor Tim Naish of the Antarctic Research Centre, the team includes Nancy Bertler, Richard Levy and Nick Golledge of GNS Science, and researchers from Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) and NIWA.

GNS Science chief executive Ian Simpson is delighted that GNS Science researchers are part of the award-winning team.

“The Prime Minister’s Science Prize encapsulates everything we stand for at GNS Science – world-class research in collaborative partnerships for the benefit of New Zealand,” Mr Simpson says.

“It’s very gratifying that climate change science has been chosen to receive the award, and for GNS Science to be part of a team working on such a critical issue.”

The multi-disciplinary team has created new “paleo-calibrated” models which reconstruct past warm climates and ice melt patterns, then compare ice volume changes with known sea level rise.

These models show current Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predictions underestimate the potential Antarctic ice sheet contribution by up to 1 metre – meaning 2 metres of global sea level rise by 2100 is a plausible scenario.

“What we have found is that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean change so much faster than we anticipated,” Nancy Bertler says.

“Ten to twenty years ago, we still thought climate change consequences would be a challenge for future generations - but we already experience the effects now.

“We know our choices right now can have severe consequences for centuries if not millennia to come. And it’s that urgency that keeps us all awake at night.”

The team’s research and expertise are markedly improving New Zealand’s ability to manage impacts of sea level rise, through the the Antarctic Science Platform, Resilience to Nature’s Challenges and Deep South National Science Challenges, NZ SeaRise Programme, and uptake by local government and iwi.

“I hope winning this prize will further help the team connect with iwi, coastal communities, local governments and educators so that we can really get our message out there,” Richard Levy says.

“Over the coming decades, we need to find ways to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero – we are heading in the right direction, but there is still much to do – and this award will help us do it.”

The group will use the cash prize to fund scholarships in perpetuity for PhD students in Antarctic and climate research – creating a legacy for emerging researchers in this crucially important field.

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