Climate change photographer presents glacier findings in SLC

By By Jamie Bowen

By Jamie Bowen

James Balog was a climate change skeptic because he didn’t believe in computer models8212;he thought they were exaggerated, and he didn’t believe that human beings could affect the world in such a big way.

His opinion changed when he started doing ice surveys of glaciers across the world.
“Ice is where you can hear, see and feel climate change,” he said. “Climate change is happening now.”

Balog presented his Extreme Ice Survey, a collection of time-lapsed photographs and videos of glaciers around the world, to a group at the Alta Club in Salt Lake City on Wednesday night and will do the same tonight at the Fine Arts Auditorium at 7 p.m. Admission is free.

Balog started the survey in 2006 when he placed 30 time-lapsing cameras on 16 glaciers in five countries. The cameras recorded the glaciers for more than 1,000 days. When Balog played back the sped-up time lapse, the crowd gasped at his findings.

In his presentations, glaciers disappeared in minutes.

Balog showed a series of pictures that showed one glacier in the Andes Mountains that disappeared in less than three years. The glacier at one point had been the site of the highest ski resort in the world.

“This is all really bad news because communities around those mountain fronts like Salt Lake City rely on those water fronts,” he said.

Most glaciers are disappearing in 20 to 30 years and by the year 2100, the sea level could rise by one to two feet, he said.

Balog speculated that one day his children would ask him, “What were you doing, Dad?” Balog said he knows how he would respond.

“I was doing the best I could with the tools I had,” he said.

The world has a perception and a psychology of what is happening, but we just don’t get it yet, he said.

“If we don’t do something about it soon, it’s going to just get worse,” he said.
Jessi Carrier and Tim DeChristopher, directors of Peaceful Uprising, said the presentation helped change their outlook on climate change.

“His presentation is a wake-up call,” Carrier said. “Everyone should see it. It brings an urgency for change.”

DeChristopher, a senior in economics, said he first saw Balog at the Mountain Film Festival in Teluride, Colo., in May.

“It put a visual to all the things I had been reading about it,” he said. “It opened my mind to a new understanding of this.”

Peaceful Uprising raised funds to bring Balog to the U with the help of local environmental organizations and with the help of the environmental studies graduate programs here at the U.

Balog has also authored six books and his work on glaciers has been featured in the June 2006 issue of National Geographic. In spring 2009, NOVA aired a documentary called “Extreme Ice” about Balog’s collection.

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