Jean-Louis Tison / Professor

Université Libre de Bruxelles / Geographer – Glaciology

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I am a glaciologist, Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, and I will be retired this year. For the last 30 years, I studied the Cryosphere (natural ice on Earth) aiming at a better understanding of its role, both as “actor” and “recorder” of our environment and our climate. I would not have written the following lines at the beginning of my career. Looking back at these 30 years however, I have gained insurance in my conviction that the changes we witness today indeed result from a real anthropogenic trend, rather than from short-term natural variability. The exponential build-up of indicators in all science fields does not leave room for doubts on the causes anymore. My worries therefore turn today towards the following two main interrogations: “How to improve our projections of the short-term future of this trend?” and “How to gain awareness of a majority of the population and to engage it, with its own will, towards a real transition in behavior?” no matter their convictions, life style or quality of life.
I have tried to change my own behavior with the means at hand: beyond the little obvious daily actions, I am train/tram commuting each day to work, I changed my central warming system to wood pellets, our family car is an hybrid, I also “banned” city-trips by plane…I am however also aware that some of these options are not available to everyone, and are therefore only a step forward towards more radical society changes concerning a major fraction of the Earth’s population.
This personal transition did not occur without difficulties. For example, living 30 kms from Brussels, my working place, it has been literally impossible for me to enroll my very young kids in local primary schools, given the “classical” school opening hours. I had to use my car until the kids could travel by train alone. Also, I have chosen my profession because I like to discover the World, and my family does too, a wish that is clearly incompatible with the carbon footprints of plane trips.
Alternative energy sources and sustainable mobility remain, in my opinion, the most important short-term societal challenges: “soft” and “clean”, non-carbonated energy, with adjustable delivery (e.g. through conversion processes) and long-distance transport capabilities; a train network spatially restructured, with high speed and low affordable prices; priority to short economic circuits.

Originally posted 2018-05-30 20:04:08.