EECS Alumna Leslie Field featured in The New Yorker


EECS Alumna Leslie Field (Ph.D. ‘91, M.S. ‘89) was featured in The New Yorker, highlighting a novel approach to combating one of the most proximate effects of climate change: the melting of polar ice caps and mountain glaciers. In work formalized in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Field and her colleagues applied a thin layer of glass microspheres on top of a frozen lake and demonstrated that such materials can slow the melting of ice over the thawing season by absorbing additional solar radiation. These methods proposed by Field and promoted by her non-profit organization, Ice911, aim to address the near-term effects of climate change by delaying melting ice and therefore sea level rise, knowing “that their approach [is] not a substitute for the larger undertaking of cutting climate pollution to near-zero. … ” The article further raised probing and vexing questions about the costs, benefits, and complex moral calculus of this and other proposed large-scale geoengineering projects aimed at the climate crisis, such as whether those efforts may unfairly burden indigenous communities in the Arctic or inadvertently deprioritize other environmental concerns brought on by introducing new substances into delicate ecosystems. “Action is risky, but so is inaction; geoengineering highlights the tension between speed and safety […] meanwhile, the climate crisis will grow more urgent with every day that passes—until, one day, the melting of the cryosphere makes our questions moot.”