In 2017, I was awarded a grant from the City of Houston to make two outdoor installations. These installations will be giant blocks of ice that will melt to reveal a map showing likely sea-level rise in Galveston in the year 2517, according to science. The goal is to create a thought-provoking and beautiful installation that will be seen by a diverse group of people who might otherwise not be exposed to fine art. The first installation opens October 21, 2017 in Art Alley located within the Sawyer Yards creative campus. The project is funded in part by the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.
The map of Galveston that I made for this project represents a visualization of future sea-level rise, representing a centrist perspective of mainstream climate science under a moderate path of CO2 emissions. To make the map, I relied on a survey of the science as provided in the book “Deep Future” by paleoclimatologist and environmental historian Curt Stager published in 2011. In his “best case” scenario (a moderate path of CO2 emissions), he suggests that we could see an approximate sea-level rise of 20 to 23 feet sometime over the next 300 to 3000 years or so.
Here are his assumptions:
- Stager describes a “hypothetical moderate path” of carbon reduction in which governments act collectively to begin reducing carbon emissions now, with peak carbon emissions occurring in 2050 and diminishing to zero emissions in 2200. He calls this the most realistic “best case.” In this scenario, we switch to non-fossil fuels as soon as possible, but still end up adding 700 gigatons (Gton: 1 billion metric tons) of CO2 to the atmosphere in addition to the 300 Gtons we have added since the industrial revolution.
- He shares that the resulting peak atmospheric CO2 concentrations would occur between 2100 to 2200, with a thermal maximum occurring in 2200 to 2300. In this scenario, peak atmospheric conditions of CO2 are likely to rise from today’s concentrations of 387 parts per million (ppm) to between 550 to 600 ppm. Temperatures would rise by 3 to 7 degrees F.
- The sea level rise of 20 to 23 feet assumes that Greenland loses about half of its ice as does much of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the huge East Atlantic ice sheet remains mostly intact.
- From a geohistorical perspective, the Eemian interglacial (130,000 years ago) temperatures were 2 to 5 degrees warmer than today and sea-levels were approximately 20 to 23 feet higher.
The timing of the rise is deeply uncertain, but for this visualization I have chosen a horizon of 500 years.
The base is made of pressure treated wood, resin, and LED lights. The lights will be solar powered.
These ice blocks are 3 feet by 1 foot by 4 inches. They weigh fifty pounds each. I’ll need to make 62 blocks to finish the sculpture.
Here I am, proudly posing with a recently-delivered ice-trailer. I am making blocks of ice over the next three months for a sculpture installation. When I’m done, I’ll have 3,098 pounds of ice. The blocks will be assembled into one massive block measuring 6 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet. The installation will open as a part of National Sculpture Month on October 21, 2017 in the Washington Ave. Art District’s Artist Alley, just outside the SITE Gallery at The Silos. As the ice melts, it will reveal a map showing Galveston in the year 2517. Spoiler alert: Galveston will be underwater, according to SCIENCE!
This project is made possible by a grant from Mayor Turner’s office and the Houston Art Alliance.