#1: SNOW

Welcome to the first post of the EArtH team – the EDIPI Art Hazard project, where we bring together art and climate to show the effects of climate change on paintings according to scientific evidence taken from the IPCC reports. 
Our idea is to modify some paintings using our creativity and scientific facts and imagine them to be painted in 2100 under some emissions scenarios.

For every post we will choose some paintings according to the weather event we wish to shade a light on. As winter has just come to the end, we thought that it would be logical to start with a fairly wintery and magical one: snow!

Winter of 1879 went down in history as one of the coldest in Europe, with Siberian temperatures recorded in Western Europe. It was during these frigid times that Claude Monet, vastly considered as the father of the Impressionism art movement, painted ‘The road to Vétheuil, snow effect’ . We are in Vétheuil, 70 km north-west from Paris, in the countryside, after a heavy snowfall. The sky is still gray and gives a sense of full winter. To convey that, Monet used a symphony of colors from white to purple, to light brown. The result is an almost full white landscape, which reflects an immense sense of calm and freezing atmosphere

Another different sensation is given from the painting ‘Winter landscape in Switzerland near Engadin, 1920’ by Peder Mørk Mønsted, one of the most renowned Danish painters. A warm sunlight ray enters the painting from the right side, illuminating a vast part of the Alps landscape, giving us the hope that spring is possibly coming back. The realism which characterizes the vast majority of Mønsted mature works is reflected here in the reproduction of the landscape as if it was a photograph. 

Indeed, we can still see the influence of Monet works on him, for instance in the choice of the subjects. Thus, without Monet works, Monsted could not have been fully the great painter he was and still is

Imagine if we, along with Monet and Monsted, could time travel to 2100 : could Monet have painted ‘The road to Vétheuil, snow effect’ under the effect of climate change exactly the same way he did in 1879? Would Peder Mørk Mønstead be able to recreate the same kind of photograph-like painting of a winter mountain landscape if Monet could not have influenced him?

Unfortunately, the answer is not obvious: it depends on which scenario we, humans, choose to pursue when it comes to our greenhouse gas emissions

Current climate is already different from the one Monet and Mønsted experienced when creating their masterworks. In their times, rapid industrialisation responsible for emitting greenhouse gasses had just begun, and we have greatly changed our climate since then. The IPCC reports represent a comprehensive summary of what the overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees on topics associated with climate change. In the IPCC’s most recent works, scientists confirmed that ‘global warming has already led to mass loss from ice sheets and glaciers and reductions in snow cover’.

In regions such as the European Alps, the snow depth is projected to decrease by around 25% between recent decades and the near future. This corresponds to a continuation of the ongoing decrease in annual snow cover duration (on average 5 days per decade). For small glaciers such as in the European Alps, Pyrenees and Scandinavia, reductions in ice mass of more than 80% by the end of the century are expected under a “worst case scenario” (RCP8.5) compared with 30% under the most optimistic scenario (RCP2.6). These numbers are best estimates contained in the findings of the IPCC, and are inherently associated with varying degrees of uncertainty. For more information on the uncertainty with the numbers in this article we refer you to the IPCC summary for summary for policy makers

Imagine that the end of the century has just arrived : we are in 2100 and we have done nothing to curb our emissions. Our imagination combined with our scientific knowledge suggested the following re-paintings.

For Monet’s painting we decided to use recycled pieces of clothings to remove some of the snow in order to stress on how human actions have an effect on our surroundings. Using discarded clothes also reminds us of the role of garbage and discarded objects in our lives as consumers:  

For Mønsted’s painting, given the information from the IPCC, we decided to challenge AI and then to post process the image using some graphical tools. We applied that in a corner of Mønsted’s painting to give you a feeling of what could be the Alps in the worst case scenario in 2100.
Can you imagine the rest of the painting? We challenge you!

It is important to note that cold and snowy winters like the ones originally painted would still be possible in 2100: they would just be much less common. So, if our time-machine was able to bring Monet and Mønsted back to present times for just one winter, the chances of them seeing the landscapes covered in snow would be much lower than when they have painted them! 

However, as we said, the future will depend on the scenario we choose. We would like to dream of a world where another Monet in 2100 could paint another version of ‘The road to Vétheuil, snow effect’ and that 40 years later, inspired by him/her and other artists, another great future Peder Mørk Mønsted, will impress us with his/her view of ‘Winter landscape in Switzerland near Engadin’. 

We believe that this world can still be a real possible future one. 
Join the climate action, do your part! 
Dostojevski already said: ‘ Beauty will save the world’. Be part of this beauty. 
And do not forget to share and/or comment on this post!

Paint to you soon,
The EArtH team

The EArth team is aware of the incompleteness on the scientific level of the material presented. However, this goes beyond the scope of this article. The goal is to have a personal and creative vision of future parts of the world based on scientific facts, but leaving room for people in the team to imaginate those scenarios.