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Professor Gail Whiteman

Climate scientists enlist celebrity help to sound ‘Arctic alarm’ for UN General Assembly

Climate scientists including from the University of Exeter Business School are to sound the ‘Arctic alarm’ in a virtual panel event ahead of the UN General Assembly’s high-level meeting on climate action this week. 

The virtual panel will be hosted by Emmy-nominated actor Rainn Wilson and feature Professor Gail Whiteman of the University of Exeter Business School.

Professor Whiteman’s non-profit organisation Arctic Basecamp, a high-profile climate science communications platform that has previously worked with Greta Thunberg and Al Gore, has teamed up with Wilson, the star of the US version of hit TV show The Office, to deliver a stark warning on the unprecedented rate of Arctic change and what that means for the planet. 

The panel will take place at 5pm and feature some of the world’s leading experts on Arctic sea ice and global risk.

Professor Whiteman, the University of Exeter Business School’s Professor of Sustainable Business, will be joined on the panel by Dr Jennifer Francis of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, Professor Julienne Stroeve from UCL and Julia Jackson, founder of Grounded, an organisation that aims to identify and advance scalable climate crisis solutions.

And in an earlier panel event at 12 midday, a group of expert Arctic scientists will be joined by Nigel Topping, the UK Climate Champion, to explain the science of Arctic ice loss and how it’s driving a world of worsening climate impacts.

This month marks only the second time that the extent of Arctic sea ice has fallen below 4 million square kilometres, and this year the region has seen the hottest temperatures ever recorded as well as experiencing unprecedented wildfires.

The effects of climate change in the world’s northernmost point have a direct impact on extreme weather around the globe, including the wildfires that have burned more than 3.2 million acres across California.

“The warming Arctic is a stark reminder of the climate emergency,” said Professor Whiteman. “If the world’s COVID-19 economic recovery plans are not low-carbon compliant, then the world will be in more trouble than ever before. This is a warning cry, and world leaders must act now.”

As the Arctic ice was close to an all-time low this month, with Greenland melting significantly and Arctic peatland fires raging, Wilson travelled to Greenland with Professor Whiteman’s Arctic Basecamp to raise awareness of the effects of warming Arctic temperatures.

He documented his journey for a new six-episode YouTube series called An Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change.

“While in Greenland with Arctic Basecamp’s talented team of scientists, my mind was blown by the data about climate change and the Arctic,” said Wilson. “As they say, ‘What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,’ and I’m doing my utmost to get this crucial information out there to protect our beautiful planet.”

To register for free access to either virtual panel and submit questions in advance, email

Date: 22 September 2020