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Health, Science & Environment

Research of Ohio State climate scientist the focus of new documentary 'Canary'

Lonnie Thompson

A new documentary called “Canary,” highlights 50 years of climate research by Ohio State University Professor of Earth Sciences, Lonnie Thompson.

Thompson has gathered information on glaciers and melting icecaps in 16 countries, Antarctica and Greenland. He says the evidence is clear on the effects of burning fossil fuels.

"In the last 11 years the concentrations have increased over two parts per million every year,” says Thompson. “Not only is carbon dioxide increasing, it's accelerating."

The two-hour film shows the Peruvian Andes’ now-melting Quelccaya Ice Cap that Thompson, who is also a senior researcher at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, has researched for five decades.

“This is the largest tropical icecap on Earth, is now the longest documented ice field on our planet,” says Thompson. “And we have been doing that for about 50 years now. And the changes that have taken place are just tremendous. For example, back in 1985, we looked at the area of the ice cap and we just compared it with 2023, and we have lost over 40 percent of the area of this, the largest tropical ice cap on earth.”

Specimens from the ice cores are collected and stored in the freezers at the Byrd Center at OSU.

Thompson says the documentary about his research aims to spur action.

“I take solace in the fact that our research programs are international,” says Thompson. “For example, our latest drilling in the far western Tibet. We had Russians, we had Chinese, we had Americans, South Americans. We had Tibetans all working together in very extreme high elevation environments to accomplish an objective.”

Thompson says advances in renewable energy sources will continue, despite pushback.

"We are in a place now where we have technologies, we have wind, we have solar, and because of the scaling that's now taking place, that these are sometimes cheaper than our gas and our oil and our nuclear sources of power,” says Thompson. “Change is coming, and it will come."

“Canary” opened Sept. 15 at the Gateway Film Center, located at 1550 North High Street. There will also be a one-night only special nationwide screening on Sept. 20.

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Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.