Art, Greenspace August 6, 2012 By Jordan Sayle

David Breashears, Mount Everest, Main Rongbuk Glacier, Tibet, China,  2007

David Breashears, Mount Everest, Main Rongbuk Glacier, Tibet, China, 2007

It’s along the southeastern Tibetan Plateau where glaciologists notice the most pronounced signs of melting, and that was the case in a study published last month in the journal Nature. It tracked glaciers over a 30-year period using satellites and on-the-ground surveys. In all, the study found that 7,090 glaciers on the plateau and its surroundings have shrunk.

Any discussion about the science behind the retreat of Himalayan glaciers must deal with the controversy resulting from the statistic that notoriously found its way into the latest United Nations report on climate change without having met peer review requirements. In 2010, the IPCC was forced to abandon claims that these glaciers could be gone by 2035, while maintaining that accelerated melting is still a meaningful risk. Given the stakes, it’s a risk we’d be foolish to ignore.

To raise awareness, the Asia Society’s exhibit is meant to engage visitors on a different level. Policy solutions for addressing the release of greenhouse gases have so far come up short, and partisan debates still sway public opinion. For Mr. Schell, however, another approach is to arrive at the issue visually.

“If you can present something that is telling at the same time that it’s beautiful,” he says of his efforts to engage the public, “then maybe you’ll get them to look whereas otherwise they might choose not to look.”

The units in this equation are currently on display in Aspen. Now it’s a matter of adding them up.

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