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As part of CBS News’ “Climate Diaries” series, correspondent Mark Phillips has traveled to Antarctica to report on climate change. We’ll be posting video of the segments here as they air on CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News throughout the week.
Phillips told TVNewser, “With any luck, the biggest take away from our reporting here will be to turn the climate change argument, which has gotten very political, back to science. The polar regions are where the evidence of climate change is greatest, and what happens here will eventually affect us all.”
Phillips further explained that “it’s an important time to be here doing this type of reporting.” And indeed, CBS’ Anthony Mason introduced Phillips’ initial report on CBS This Morning by noting that it was occurring “at a time of uncertainty over the U.S. government’s policy towards climate change.”
In his first report, versions of which aired on the February 13 editions of CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, Phillips discussed a 100-plus-mile-long crack in the Larsen C ice shelf and the potential impact the loss of the shelf could have on sea levels that are already rising due to climate change. On CBS This Morning, Phillips stated, “It's not so much the floating sea ice from the shelf that is worrying. It’s that without the ice shelf to hold it back, the glacial ice on land will flow into the oceans more quickly and drive sea levels up even more than the 3 feet that is already predicted for the century.”
Phillips also described a “chill in the scientific community that’s working [in Antarctica] -- a fear that the kinds of money they need for their work will be less forthcoming in the future and that there’ll be a less sympathetic ear in government for the kind of science they do.” Many scientists have expressed grave concerns about the future of climate science under President Donald Trump, who has dismissed climate change as a “hoax” and whose administration may “attempt to undermine the years of science underpinning” climate policies, as Time magazine put it.
From the February 13 edition of CBS This Morning:
On February 14, CBS This Morning aired Phillips’ second report from Antarctica, which focused on how climate change could be threatening the food supply of killer whales.
In the segment -- a similar version of which also aired on the February 19 edition of CBS Weekend News -- Phillips accompanied Palmer Station scientists tracking and studying sick and malnourished killer whales. Phillips explained that the scientists so far only have a hypothesis for why the whales are in bad health, but they believe that warming waters -- which have reduced the pack ice and led to fewer seals in areas where the whales normally hunt -- might be to blame.
In Phillips’ reports on the February 15 editions of CBS This Morning and CBS Evening News, researchers at Palmer Station detailed how dramatic changes in Antarctica are impacting another animal found in the region -- the Adélie penguin, whose population on the island housing Palmer Station has declined by around 85 percent, from a peak of almost 9,000 to about 1,200 this year. As Phillips explained in the CBS This Morning report, “These Adélie penguins need one essential condition to thrive: they need sea ice to hunt from, and there is less of that around now,” with the sea ice season now three months shorter than it used to be.
On CBS This Morning, Phillips also discussed how in addition to sea ice, glaciers are retreating at increasing rates, leaving Palmer Station researchers “shocked” at how dramatically the landscape has changed. Standing along the shoreline, Phillips explained that the Marr Ice Piedmont glacier is retreating so quickly that researchers were able to witness the creation of a new island in an area they had previously thought was part of the mainland. Introducing a similar version of the report on the CBS Evening News, anchor Scott Pelley noted that NASA found that last month was the third-warmest January on record and 2016 was the warmest year, adding, “Mark Phillips sees the change at the bottom of the earth.”
Here’s Phillips’ report from the February 15 edition of CBS This Morning:
On the February 17 edition of CBS Evening News, Pelley introduced a segment about “the future of financing environmental research in the Trump era.” In it, Phillips detailed how tourists paying to go on Antarctic expeditions are financing scientists’ research in the region, and stated that given the Trump administration’s dismissive stance towards climate change, these expeditions “may be a new model for how scientific research gets paid for in the future.”
Phillips spoke with Antarctic researchers, including Antarctic ice scientist Ken Taylor, who told Phillips, “We’ve already gotten indications from our federal funding agencies, particularly the National Science Foundation, that we should anticipate budget cuts. It didn’t take very long after the election for that word to come down.” Phillips also interviewed two researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who said they already rely on money from tourists because the government funding they currently receive isn’t enough to support their research tracking Antarctic whales.
Phillips also interviewed one such tourist, Lori Fey, who told him, “I really think it’s a shame that the science is in the crosshairs of politics, because it doesn’t take much to understand that we are having a detrimental effect, collectively, on the world.”
From the February 17 edition of CBS Evening News: