Donor Profile: An Interview with Carol Sontag

I.  Tell us about yourself!

I was raised by amazing parents in San Carlos, CA. Involved in numerous environmental causes, Mom and Dad taught us to be stewards of the land and that conservation was of the utmost importance. I guess you could say that concern for the environment is in my blood.  I am an avid hiker and am working on completing the Bay Area Ridge Trail with a group of local women. My husband, Mark, and I realize how lucky we are to live in an area where conservation and preservation is a primary focus, and we support many environmental causes. I became interested in climate change after seeing Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth" and installed solar panels on our home after seeing the movie. I follow news stories closely and try to learn about the many causes of climate change.

II. Why do you support Ice911?

This is a great question and one that goes back to my days at a registered nurse at a county hospital. Nurses are trained to prioritize care and make those with life-threatening ailments a top priority. I have tried to use these skills in determining where to put my time and resources. I support many worthwhile causes, but Ice911 addresses the most important and pressing environmental issue: global temperature rise. If the earth continues to heat up, the effects will be catastrophic.  I often use the analogy of moving deck furniture on the Titanic. Instead of shuffling chairs around, someone needs to focus on sealing the hole in the ship! In a sense, our planet is sinking, and we need to address the loss of the Arctic ice NOW.

III. What is the most compelling aspect of our work?

I think the most important park of Ice911's mission is their defining principles. The first of these is, "Do no harm." Ice brightening sand used in your work is safe for humans and animals and is reversible. This is something of utmost importance to me.

IV. What gave you the idea for the letter-writing campaign?

I receive numerous emails from many worthy organizations, but they lack direct human to human appeal. I thought if I could reach people and write a personal message, they might take the time out of their busy day to read and respond to the importance of what Ice911 is doing.

V.  What would be your advice to others who might consider doing the same type of campaign?

I would highly encourage them to do so. It has sparked some incredible discussions and also offered hope to many who are paralyzed with fear at the thought that, "there is nothing we can do." There are many things that can be done, and Ice911 buys our planet time to switch to greener energy sources and work on reducing CO2 emissions. By reaching out to friends and loved ones, you offer them the chance to help, to act. This type of support could help leave a world for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

VI. Any last thoughts?

I want people to know that Ice911 might just be the single most important environmental organization of our time. You would be joining forces with a movement that could alter the course of the earth in a positive direction. Ice911 has taught me to be optimistic, to stay positive and keep my eye on the ultimate goal: slowing the Arctic ice melt. There are many bumps along the road of research and development, but we must never give up hope. We must continue to fight for this beautiful world we live in.

Journey to the Top of the World by Paul Walter

I stepped off the plane to be greeted by a frigid wind. To say it was cold would be an understatement; to say it was freezing, though accurate, would still not be enough. The temperature was subzero. To be specific, the temperature was about -18°F without considering wind chill (which easily pushed the temperature below -30°F). The Ice911 team had entered another world called Barrow, Alaska.

The next morning, we had a quick breakfast and met with the local science organization who provided us with myriad forms of assistance: snowmobiles, personnel, advice. We were anxious to get to the test site promptly since our time was short and the work abundant. Before departing via snowmobile, one worker opened a gun safe, retrieving a 12-Gauge shotgun from within. “In case of polar bears,” he said.

I quickly learned one thing performing field research. The field does not care how careful one’s plan is, nor does it mind how intelligent one’s fellow scientists are, nor does it appreciate golden intentions and noble goals. Despite trying to save a piece of Nature, it made every effort to hinder our progress. Extreme conditions create extreme challenges. However, Nature played a dual role of antagonist and source of inspiration. Gazing upon miles of barren ice expanding in every direction, I felt as if I were commingling with a frozen infinity. These moments reinvigorated me with a sense of duty and purpose. Returning to my work, I realized that our work at Ice911 was not only about preserving environments for the sake of human civilization. We also worked for the protection of beauty, the protection of life in the Arctic, and the protection of a special place at the top of the world.

Why it's time to act. A letter from Leslie Field.

Since I started Ice911, there has been a worry that policy-makers and the populace would be tempted to not make any of the needed long-term changes to decarbonize because work like ours could be used to undo the harms from our current energy mix, CO2 emissions, etc. This is an argument based on the concept of moral hazard: the lack of incentive to guard against risk where one is protected from its consequences.

I think things have changed now, however.  Several reasons prove to me that we need to get the word out now, and get it out widely, about our work.

1. If people think that it's absolutely hopeless to adhere to the agreed-upon 2 degree limit, it's demotivating, and there's a certain part of the population that will just give up and not do anything because they don't think there's any point to acting.  I think that if we can give the world some time, and some hope, that the long-term sustainable energy and conservation efforts are very -much needed and that we could make some more time to have a chance to get those longer-term solutionis out there and working, it can empower and motivate some great efforts and great work to get there, rather than resigning ourselves and our children to a very grim future.

2. I think we are clear enough in our messaging that our own work at Ice911 is NOT the whole answer, that it simply buys the world time for these longer-term solutions, and that those longer-term solutions are very much needed, and by being VERY clear about this, that we can avoid some of the moral hazard risks and confusions.

3. I think it is VERY worthwhile, and necessary, to get our ground-rules well-publicized, of insisting that geoengineering solutions be eco-friendly, reversible, and first-do-no-harm, in order to prevent people from desperately choosing some irreversible options with terrible potential side effects.  There are better ways out there, and it's necessary to highlight that fact for the populace and for decision makers before some really regrettable decisions are made.

Stay cool,

Ice911 Successfully Hosts its First Annual Water & Ice Cocktail Party

On Thursday November 17th, 2016, Ice911 hosted its first annual Water & Ice Cocktail Party to raise awareness for arctic ice melt and its devastating impacts. The event featured world-renowned arctic photographer, Camille Seaman, who graced the crowd with hauntingly beautiful images and anecdotes of her travels to both the Arctic circle and Antarctic.

The team at Ice911 would like to extend a thank you to those who attended the event, and a warm welcome to those who were not able to attend to come to our next event for more food, drinks, laughter, and conversation about our collective power to stop arctic ice melt.

Ice911 Presents at The Commonwealth Club

On August 11th 2016, Ice911 founder, Dr. Leslie Field, and Xros founder, Dr. Armand Neukermans, presented at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, addressing the safety of using engineering to address climate change. Leslie began the panel by presenting the dangers of sitting idly while we wait for a decarbonized economy. Most notably, if no action is taken, the world will be more than 50% likely to experience warming over 5°C by 2100, leading to extinction of more than 40% of known species and sea level rise of 13-20 feet.


With the need for engineering to address climate change justified, Field introduced the concept of reversible environmental engineering to The Commonwealth Club’s audience. Reversible environmental engineering is a localized method of preventing the adverse affects of climate change that can be completely reversed if necessary. Ice911’s Ice-Aid technology is engineered to be, first, bio-safe so that when it degrades it simply becomes sand, and, second, completely removable if it is no longer needed.


Ice911’s Ice-Aid technology uses small glass-like beads to increase the amount of sun reflected from an ice sheet or body of water. On an ice sheet, the Ice-Aid materials sit on top of the ice, reflecting solar radiation and reducing ice-melt. Field believes the technology has the greatest potential to “band-aid” the effects of climate change in the Arctic (which contributes to approximately 1/3 of global warming), but asserted that more local testing is needed before this can be done.


Field also introduced a regional use for Ice911’s technology, by applying the material to water reservoirs. When floating on water, the Ice-Aid materials have been shown to reduce water loss by up to 25% and keep water an average of 5° cooler. Field, again, stressed the need for more large-scale testing in local reservoirs to validate past results and is currently seeking additional donations for Ice911 to do so.


After Dr. Field, Armand Neukermans introduced the concept of “marine cloud brightening” to the audience. Dr. Neukermans’ technology essentially adds water droplets to clouds to make them brighter and reflect more solar radiation. He noted that marine cloud brightening is already happening unintentionally from the emissions of cargo ships crossing the ocean, but with more harmful sulfate molecules. Neukermans’ technology would outfit ships with a modified snow canon that would up-spray salt particles around which water could condense and, thus, brighten marine clouds.


On the topic of safety, Neukermans listed two potential adverse effects of marine cloud brightening: droughts and increased storms in some regions. He, however, stressed the need for more testing to determine the severity of these adverse effects. Neukermans estimates that it will cost between $5-6 million USD to launch his first experiment on a research ship.


Concluding the event, both Field and Neukermans took questions from the audience, with the most concern surrounding who, if anybody, approves climate change engineering projects in the Arctic or in the ocean. Field responded that there is no existing body to approve of or fund these projects that affect the entire world, not just a specific country. Neukermans noted that a similar concern existed around genetic engineering of humans and the scientific community formed a governing body that set the rules for scientists in the field; and it may be the same in the case of climate change engineering. However, with the need for immediate action, Field stressed the importance of making sure that, regardless of a governing body, our climate change solutions must be reversible.