The explorer David Hempleman-Adams raises awareness of climate change…

The Earth is hotting up – both on land and in the oceans. 2015 was the hottest year on record. Between the years 1880 and 2012 the average world temperature rose by 0.85°C. This might not sound a lot but even a small increase in temperature can have a huge impact on the planet and upset the delicate balance of our climate system.

Climate change can be caused by natural events such as a volcanic eruption or human activity such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation. The Earth’s climate has changed many times over thousands of years.

However, over the last 50 years we – humans – have caused the planet to warm much more quickly by our everyday activities releasing too much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. If we continue to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere at this rate, it is thought that temperatures will continue to increase by between 1.4 and 5.8°C during this century.

At the Paris Climate Conference (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C. (Source: ec.europa.eu)

This is a major step forward, and the fact that the global leaders of today have agreed these measures is a sign of the seriousness of the situation.

Arctic sea ice has continued to shrink year on year and will change forever. This will have global, economic, political, social and environmental implication and is the reason I am leading The Polar Ocean Challenge this summer. It is a fantastic opportunity to increase the world’s attention onto not just the effects of climate change but also to highlight the need to navigate the future of the Arctic responsibly. The lives of people living in the normally year-round ice bound communities will change. We can make sure that this is handled carefully, sustainably, responsibly.

wicked-weather-watchThe future of our planet is in the hands of the next generation. With the Paris agreement only due to enter into force in 2020 it is more important than ever to make young people aware of climate change and its impacts, and give them the tools and information they need to make a difference now.

I have set up a charity to give children and young people clarity about climate change and global warming. Wicked Weather Watch will offer unique insight by highlighting the changes happening in the Arctic – where temperature is rising at twice the global average – by working directly with people who have been there, and by following The Polar Ocean Challenge.

Departing mid-June from Bristol, The Polar Ocean Challenge is a historic voyage with purpose and meaning. The level of global warming is increasing the number of ice-free months in the Northeast Passage, opening up the Arctic Ocean and making it possible for the first British team ever to cover 13,500 nautical miles and sail around the North Pole in one summer season, navigating through receding Arctic sea ice.

The crew, led by experienced Arctic skipper, Captain Nikolai, includes Irish yachtswoman Barbara Fitzpatrick, explorer Constance Difede and 14 year old schoolboy Ben Edwards, Youth Ambassador for Wicked Weather Watch, who will be the youngest ever person to circumnavigate the Arctic Ocean.

Northabout, our 48ft purpose built high latitude sailing yacht is berthed next to Brunel’s SS Great Britain and will depart from Bristol in mid-June for the four month challenge.

We must reach the Northeast Passage before the end of July, when the ice flows will have melted sufficiently to allow access, but the clock will then be ticking for us to go around the North Pole and exit via the Northwest Passage before it freezes again, returning back to Bristol in mid-October.

You can track the live progress of the Polar Ocean Challenge from July, by signing up to: wickedweatherwatch.org.uk.

It is an educational voyage. We will collect up to the minute data such as temperature readings and personal testimony from people who live in the Arctic, and Wicked Weather Watch will use this information to create free materials for teachers and schools to bring climate change to life in the classroom.

The Arctic is changing and has significant challenges ahead. The next decade is crucial. If we all simply give some of our attention towards the challenges facing the Arctic, and educate the next generation, then surely we’ve got the best chance of getting it right.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Terry Callaghan, and patron of Wicked Weather Watch sums it up: “It is my generation’s responsibility to pass on to the next generation the love and respect of those natural environments most vulnerable to change and to give them the scientific tools to understand how to protect them.”

To sign up to Wicked Weather Watch and follow The Polar Ocean Challenge, visit: wickedweatherwatch.org.uk and polarocean.co.uk.