Cabot Institute blog

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Friday, 16 June 2017

In defence of science: Making facts great again

"We must not let rhetoric or vested interests divert us from what we know is the right course of action."


From across the Atlantic, the European scientific community is watching warily as our American colleagues endure increasingly politicised attacks on their work and on the very foundation of evidence-based science.

President Donald Trump's decision earlier this month to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change - a decision condemned by heads of state, businesses, mayors and ordinary people in the US and the world over - epitomised this contempt for the facts from some within the political sphere.

We can, to some degree, relate, as many European scientists - and particularly those who research climate change and its impacts, as I do - have been forced to confront the politicisation of their disciplines, the distortion of their research and the promotion of "alternative facts" and vested-interest propaganda.

In fact, just two months ago at the annual General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union, for the first time in the body's history, we debated issues around existential threats to science in general, the integrity of the scientific community, trust in science and what we can do to ensure that evidence-based science forms the basis for informed decisions and debate by policymakers and the public.

Later this month, we'll watch as some of our American colleagues gather for the annual Broadcast Meteorology Conference of the American Meteorological Society, which will include in its programme a short course explicitly focused on the communication of climate science.

Never has accurate, fact-based communication of climate science been more urgently needed, and in modern history, it has rarely been so compromised. There is a clear trend, particularly evident in the US, of a growing distrust of "experts" who are branded as intellectual elites, rooted in a populist backlash towards the establishment.

This goes all the way up the rungs of government to the American president himself, who has called climate change a "hoax" and in his first 100 days in office has moved to curb spending on climate and earth science research and is overseeing an agency-wide scrubbing of climate science out of federal websites and publications.

As he announced the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on June 1, Trump also left himself open to accusations of misrepresenting climate science to suit his own political objectives: after the US president quoted a figure from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study to support his argument that the Paris Agreement is ineffectual, MIT officials - including one of the study's authors - declared that Trump had misunderstood their work and that they did not support a US withdrawal from the agreement.

The science of climate change, however, is clearer than ever. We see the fingerprints of human-induced global warming on more and more long-term climate trends. In the US and throughout the world, for instance, warmer temperatures are amplifying the intensity, duration and frequency of many weather events, none more evident than extreme heat. Western states have suffered through record numbers of heat waves since the turn of the century, with overnight temperatures often at historical highs. This is particularly dangerous as it doesn't give the human body the necessary relief. Already, these heat waves are costing lives, and the scientific link between human-induced global warming and heat waves is crystal clear. The European heat wave of 2003 is estimated to have caused 35,000 premature deaths and was very likely a consequence of human interference with the climate system.

By listening to the best available science on climate change, we can better prepare for its impacts. By ignoring, censoring, or shunning our scientists, we put more Americans at risk. The alternative to informed decision-making is uninformed decision-making. Without evidence-based science, decisions of vital importance to humanity will be made founded in prejudice, emotion and ignorance. That is no way to run the planet. It is no way to plan our future.

Besides helping prepare for the impacts of climate change, science should guide our efforts to minimise them. For these mitigation efforts, the science is telling us that we don't have much time. In fact, it's saying that 2020 must be the target for peaking global carbon emissions. We must bend the curve of global greenhouse gas emissions towards a steady decline by the next US presidential election. If emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, the world stands very little chance of limiting global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the threshold set by the Paris Agreement, and a temperature limit that many of the world's most vulnerable communities consider a threshold for survival.

The world has four short years to reverse our emissions trends to avoid the very real risk of dangerous and irreversible climate change, but we won't get the policies we need without trusting and relying on the science that tells us that's so. Science has no political affiliation, nor can it be bent to your will. You don't renegotiate with physics and you aren't about to "win" a deal with chemistry. We must not let rhetoric, vested interests or the blind dismissal of the overwhelming scientific consensus divert us from what we know is the right course of action ethically, scientifically and economically.

By Jonathan Bamber, professor of polar science at the University of Bristol and president of the European Geosciences Union. Blog originally posted on Al Jazeera.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Forest accounting rules put EU’s climate credibility at risk, say leading experts

**Article re-posted from EURACTIV **

Forest mitigation should be measured using a scientifically-objective approach, not allowing countries to hide the impacts of policies that increase net emissions, writes a group of environmental scientists led by Dr Joanna I House.

Dr Joanna I House is a reader in environmental science and policy at the Cabot Institute, University of Bristol, UK. She co-signed this op-ed with other environmental scientists listed at the bottom of the article.

From an atmospheric perspective, a reduction in the forest sink leads to more CO2 remaining in the atmosphere and is thus effectively equivalent to a net increase in emissions. [Yannik S/Flickr]

When President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement, the EU’s Climate Commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete spoke for all EU Member States when he said that, “This has galvanised us rather than weakened us, and this vacuum will be filled by new broad committed leadership.” The French President, Emmanuel Macron, echoed him by tweeting, “Make our planet great again”.

But as the old saying goes, ‘If you talk the talk, you must walk the walk,’ and what better place to start than the very laws the EU is currently drafting to implement its 2030 climate target under the Paris Agreement. This includes a particularly contentious issue that EU environment leaders will discuss on 19 June, relating to the rules on accounting for the climate impact of forests.

Forests are crucial to limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Deforestation is responsible for almost one tenth of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, while forests remove almost a third of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere.

In the EU, forests currently grow more than they are harvested.  As a result, they act as a net ‘sink’ of CO2 removing more than 400 Mt CO2 from the atmosphere annually, equivalent to 10% of total EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

New policies adopted or intended by Member States will likely drive them to harvest more trees (e.g. for the bioeconomy and bioenergy), reducing the sink. The controversy is, in simple terms, if forests are taking up less CO2 due to policies, should this be counted?

Based on lessons learnt from the Kyoto Protocol, the European Commission proposed that accounting for the impacts of forests on the atmosphere should be based on a scientifically robust baseline. This baseline (known as the ‘Forest Reference Level’) should take into account historical data on forest management activities and forest dynamics (age-related changes). If countries change forest management activities going forward, the atmospheric impact of these changes would be fully accounted based on the resulting changes in GHG emissions and sinks relative to the baseline. This approach is consistent with the GHG accounting of all other sectors.

Subsequently, some EU member states have proposed that any increase in harvesting, potentially up to the full forest growth increment, should not be penalised. This would be achieved by including this increase in harvesting, and the related change in the net carbon sink, in the baseline.

As land-sector experts involved in scientific and methodological reports (including for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC), in the implementation of GHG inventory reports, and in science advice to Governments, we have several scientific concerns with this approach.

From an atmospheric perspective, a reduction in the forest sink leads to more CO2 remaining in the atmosphere and is thus effectively equivalent to a net increase in emissions. This is true even if forests are managed “sustainably”, i.e. even if harvest does not exceed forest growth.

This is further complicated as the issues are cross-sectoral. Higher harvest rates may reduce the uptake of CO2 by forests, but use of the harvested wood may lead to emissions reductions in other sectors e.g. through the substitution of wood for other more emissions-intensive materials (e.g. cement) or fossil energy. These emission reductions will be implicitly counted in the non-LULUCF sectors.  Therefore, to avoid bias through incomplete accounting, the full impact of increased harvesting must be also accounted for.

Including policy-related harvest increases in the baseline could effectively hide up to 400 MtCO2/yr from EU forest biomass accounting compared to the “sink service” that EU forests provide today, or up to 300 MtCO2/yr relative to a baseline based on a scientific approach (up to two thirds of France’s annual emissions).

If policy-related impacts on net land carbon sinks are ignored or discounted, this would:


  • Hamper the credibility of the EU’s bioenergy accounting: Current IPCC guidance on reporting emissions from bioenergy is not to assume that it is carbon neutral, but rather any carbon losses should to be reported under the ‘Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry’ (LULUCF) sector rather than under the energy sector (to avoid double counting). EU legislation on bioenergy similarly relies on the assumption that carbon emissions are fully accounted under LULUCF.
  • Compromise the consistency between the EU climate target and the IPCC trajectories. The EU objective of reducing GHG emissions of -40% by 2030 (-80/95% by 2050) compared to 1990 is based on the IPCC 2°C GHG trajectory for developed countries. This trajectory is based not just on emissions, but also on land-sinks. Hiding a decrease in the land sink risks failure to reach temperature targets and would require further emission reductions in other sectors to remain consistent with IPCC trajectories.
  • Contradict the spirit of the Paris Agreement, i.e., that “Parties should take action to conserve and enhance sinks”, and that Parties should ensure transparency in accounting providing confidence that the nationally-determined contribution of each country (its chosen level of ambition in mitigation) is met without hiding impacts of national policies.
  • Set a dangerous precedent internationally, potentially leading other countries to do the same (e.g. in setting deforestation reference levels). This would compromise the credibility of the large expected forest contribution to the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement needs credible and transparent forest accounting and EU leaders are about to make a decision that could set the standard.   Including policy-driven increases in harvest in baselines means the atmospheric impacts of forest policies will be effectively hidden from the accounts (while generating GHG savings in other sectors). Basing forest accounting on a scientifically-objective approach would ensure the credibility of bioenergy accounting, consistency between EU targets and the IPCC 2°C trajectory, and compliance with the spirit of Paris Agreement. The wrong decision would increase the risks of climate change and undermine our ability to “make the planet great again”.

Disclaimer: the authors express their view in their personal capacities, not representing their countries or any of the institutions they work for.

***

Signatories:

Joanna I House, Reader in Environmental Science and Policy, Co-Chair Global Environmental Change, Cabot Institute, University of Bristol, UK
Jaana K Bäck, Professor in Forest – atmosphere interactions, Chair of the EASAC Forest multifunctionality report, University of Helsinki, Finland
Valentin Bellassen, Researcher in Agricultural and Environmental Economics, INRA, France
Hannes Böttcher, Senior Researcher at Oeko-Institut.
Eric Chivian M.D., Founder and Former Director, Center for Health and the Global Environment Harvard Medical School
Pep Canadell, Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project
Philippe Ciais, scientist at Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, Gif sur Yvette, France
Philip B. Duffy, President and Executive Director Woods Hole Research Center, USA
Sandro Federici, Consultant on MRV and accounting for mitigation in the Agriculture and land use sector
Pierre Friedlingstein, Chair, Mathematical Modelling of Climate Systems, University of Exeter, UK.
Scott Goetz, Professor, Northern Arizona University
Nancy Harris, Research Manager, Forests Program, World resources Institute.
Martin Herold, Professor for Geoinformation Science and Remote Sensing and co-chair of Global Observations of Forest Cover and Land Dynamics (GOFC-GOLD), Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands
Mikael Hildén, Professor, Climate Change Programme and the Resource Efficient and Carbon Neutral Finland Programme, Finnish Environment Institute and the Strategic Research Council, Finland
Richard A. Houghton, Woods Hole Research Centre USA
Tuomo Kalliokoski University of Helsinki, Finland
Janne S. Kotiaho, Professor of Ecology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Donna Lee, Climate and Land Use Alliance
Anders Lindroth, Lund University, Sweden
Jari Liski, Research Professor, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Finland
Brendan Mackey, Director, Griffith Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University, Australia
James J. McCarthy, Harvard University, USA
William R. Moomaw, Co-director Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, USA
Teemu Tahvanainen, University of Eastern Finland
Olli Tahvonen, Professor forest economics and policy, University of Helsinki, Finland
Keith Pausitan, University Distinguished Professor, Colorado State University, USA
Colin Prentice, AXA Chair in Biosphere and Climate Impacts, Imperial College London, UK
N H Ravindranath, Centre for Sustainable Technologies (CST), Indian Institute of Science, India
Laura Saikku, Senior Scientist, Finnish Environment Institute
Maria J Sanchez, Scientific Director of BC3 (Basque Center for Climate Change), Spain
Sampo Soimakallio, Senior Scientist, Finnish Environment Institute
Zoltan Somogyi, Hungarian Forest Research Institute, Budapest, Hungary
Benjamin Smith, Professor of Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Sweden
Pete Smith, Professor of Soils & Global Change, University of Aberdeen, UK
Francesco N. Tubiello, Te Leader, Agri-Environmental Statistics, FAO
Timo Vesala, Professor of Meteorology, University of Helsinki, Finland
Robert Waterworth
Jeremy Woods, Imperial College London, UK
Dan Zarin, Climate and Land Use Alliance

Thursday, 8 June 2017

MSc Environmental Policy and Management Course Trip to Warsaw, Poland

Each year, students on the MSc Environmental Policy and Management program receive funding to plan an educational trip in Europe. Previous cohorts have chosen to visit Berlin, Copenhagen, Riga, and Amsterdam. This year, we democratically decided to visit Warsaw. We chose to do so not because the city and Poland are exemplary in environmental management, but rather because they have real challenges facing them in the transition to a low-carbon future.


The energy sector represents the biggest environmental challenge in Poland and government leaders are reported to actively oppose European Union climate change targets (Kowalski, 2016). After its most recent election (2015), the country announced that energy policy would prioritise the exploitation of domestic coal deposits. Indeed, there is a historical and cultural attachment to coal in Poland, as the coal industry was influential in the country’s socio-economic development in the period between World War I and World War II, and during the post-World War II Communist era (Kowalski, 2016). More recently, coal has been promoted as a path to increase Poland’s energy independence, particularly from Russia, by reducing the need for imported fuel.

Poland has consistently been one of the biggest coal producers in the EU (Lukaszewska, 2011). A large majority of the country’s electricity generation (80 – 94%) comes from coal-fired power plants fuelled by domestic hard coal and lignite (Kozlowska, 2017; Lukaszewska, 2011). The dominant position of these fossil fuels in Poland’s energy mix presents a significant challenge in the fight against global climate change. We arranged meetings with the Polish Climate Coalition, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, and Greenpeace Poland to learn more.

Our first meeting was with the Polish Climate Coalition. As our large cohort climbed the stairs to their office, it soon became clear that we would not all fit in and so we turned back and headed for a local café just around the corner. Walking with Krzysztof and Urszula, they seemed apologetic, but they need not have been. We found the experience to be an honest representation of how a grassroots organisation may operate when fighting for causes arguably more important than having a fancy corporate office. The Coalition is an association of 22 NGOs engaged in climate protection and includes Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and ClientEarth. It was established under the outright belief that humans are responsible for climate change.


Over the next 90 minutes, Krzysztof and Urszula provided us with an in-depth overview of the energy sector in Poland. We learned that the dominant driving force for current practice is a flawed interpretation of energy security which focuses on supply in lieu of other considerations, such as tackling fuel poverty and environmental pollution or ensuring stable, long-term access to energy.

The Polish energy sector is seemingly outdated and inadequate in the face of 21st century challenges. It was particularly concerning to hear that the combination of both a dry winter in 2014 and a hot summer in 2015 significantly reduced the water levels in Poland’s rivers. These rivers are the primary source of water for cooling the country’s coal-fired power plants, and in August 2015, power restrictions were imposed on 1,600 of the biggest companies in Poland as a result (Olszwski, 2015). The population face an ever-increasing risk of power blackouts due to the vulnerability of the energy sector from over-reliance on coal. If hot summers persist (temperatures exceeded 24C on the day of our visit in May!), then such vulnerability will surely continue.

One thing became clear in that, despite the major challenges which Poland faces, there are good people like Krzysztof and Urszula who are willing to fight the uphill battle, within a context where motivation must surely be difficult to find.

Upon arrival at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, for our second meeting, we were welcomed into a light, air-conditioned conference room where water and nibbles were laid out for us. While our physical environment was starkly different to our first meeting, we soon realised an overarching theme in Poland.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation is a politically independent 'green visions' think tank with 30 offices worldwide. Their work is divided into three programmes and we met with Katarzyna from the Energy and Climate programme in Warsaw, whose work aims to intensify the discourse about the challenges presented by energy transformation and climate change.


Much of Katarzyna’s message reinforced what we had learned in our first meeting. However, it was particularly interesting to enter into a discussion about air pollution toward the end of her presentation. We learned that coal is not only the primary source of electricity production, but is also still burned, alongside rubbish and other discarded materials, to heat homes in the winter, creating an ever-worsening problem with smog in Warsaw and across Poland. We were told that in the winter of 2016 - 2017, smog was so thick that you could not see your hand in front of you. In January 2017, air pollution in Warsaw was so bad that local authorities decided to limit local emissions by making public transport free for a short period. Approximately 45,000 people in Poland die each year from air pollution (Kozlowska, 2017). The total population is around 38 million (“Population, total,” 2017).

Our final meeting was with Greenpeace, and this took us away from the city centre to their office in what was once a very large home. Many of us took advantage of Warsaw’s bike rental scheme, called Veturilo, to make the almost 6-kilometre ride from our hostel along cycle lanes, roads, and even the sidewalk.


The office culture immediately felt distinct to that of the previous two organisations. Staff dressed more casually; unmade bunk beds showed us where visiting volunteers can stay; bumper stickers and sketched environmental messages decorated some walls; and stuffed bees the size of large dogs hung from the ceiling (purportedly they have used the bees for campaigning). The efforts of Greenpeace Poland depend less on paper and pen and more on influential signage and community engagement.


Our contact, Anna, shared stories of human chains to call attention to the rivers that have dried up because of open-pit lignite mining. She taught us about the mining process, showing us on a map of the country where current mines are operating and new ones are planned. The process destroys landscapes, diverts massive volumes of water, and forces displacement of people. The low energy content of lignite means power plants must be built immediately adjacent to the mines. Since opening about 10 years ago, Greenpeace Poland has had some successes. Anna shared her involvement in advocating for the sale of excess renewable energy back to the grid, which ultimately came to pass, at least temporarily. To highlight that the battle for environmental progress is constantly uphill however, the government later reverted this policy, and at the time of writing has not reinstated it.

Despite a certain level of negativity in our meetings, Anna’s anecdote provided some optimism. The temporary success depended on using political divisions and public advertising focusing on the benefits to individuals. Though a small step, it shows that sometimes addressing the self-interest of the general public can be an effective way to combat environmental issues in a country with Poland’s political context.


Due to a lack of climate change education in Poland, environmentalism must be achieved through its benefits to the public rather than through traditional means. Indifference towards environmentalism is something that can be seen in other countries, and to us provided a good indication of how hostile public attitudes can be addressed to allow for environmental and climate protection. One of the authors, Michael, comes from Texas and found parallels between the situation in Poland and that back home. Progress cannot depend on a shared sense of responsibility to address climate change, in which many people do not even believe. Counterproductive financial interests are rampant. However, reframing the conversation to discuss savings from energy efficiency, economic opportunities in renewables, and energy security can achieve gains in the low-carbon transition. In Texas, wind power has boomed not because of political or public will to move beyond fossil fuels, but because of its economic viability.

We are truly grateful to the School of Geography for affording us the opportunity to undertake this trip. Beyond learning more about the energy system in Poland and organisations working to improve it, we became closer as a cohort and had a wonderful time.

The reader can reach out with any questions on the trip or the program to the authors of this blog post: Mark Nichols (mn16169@my.bristol.ac.uk), Allan MacLeod (am12313@my.bristol.ac.uk), or Michael Donatti (md16045@my.bristol.ac.uk).

References
Kowalski, K., 2016. In Poland, efforts to rescue coal industry will likely come up short. [online] Available: https://pl.boell.org/en/2016/09/26/poland-efforts-rescue-coal-industry-will-likely-come-short

Kozlowska, H., 2017. When it comes to air pollution, Poland is the China of Europe. [online] Available: https://qz.com/882158/with-air-pollution-skyrocketing-warsaw-is-severely-hit-by-polands-smog-problem/

Lukaszewska, H., 2011. Poland’s Energu Security Strategy. Journal of Energy Security.

Olszewski, M., 2015. The Polish Energy Drought. [online] Available: https://energytransition.org/2015/09/the-polish-energy-drought/

“Population, Total.” The World Bank, 2017. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL.

Monday, 5 June 2017

A response to Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

The decision by President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change puts the United States at odds with both science and global geopolitical norms.  The fundamentals of climate change remain unambiguous: greenhouse gas concentrations are increasing, they are increasing because of human action, the increase will cause warming, and that warming creates risks of extreme weather, food crises and sea level rise. That does not mean that scientists can predict all of the consequences of global warming, much work needs to be done, but the risks are both profound and clear. Nor do we know what the best solutions will be - there is need for a robust debate about the nature, fairness and efficacy of different decarbonisation policies and technologies as well as the balance of responsibility; the Paris Agreement, despite its faults with respect to obligation and enforcement, allowed great flexibility in that regard, which is why nearly every nation on Earth is a signatory.


Moreover, although climate change affects us all, it will affect the poorest and most vulnerable the most. They, despite being least responsible, bear the greatest risks and the greatest burdens. For the President of the world’s second largest carbon polluter to blatantly disregard such evidence and injustice, to refuse to even acknowledge the consequences of its actions and to disengage with this relatively modest and non-binding agreement puts it odds with the norms of global partnership and human rights. This abrogation of responsibility is particularly profound because President Trump has also withdrawn the United States from the Green Climate Fund, which helps the poorest of the world adapt to the climate change that his actions make more likely.

And to what end?  Other nations will now assume global leadership, politically, morally and technologically.  It will likely cost American businesses money, hinder innovation in one of the world’s most dynamic sectors, and ultimately cost jobs. It will likely undermine the United States’ global stature and diplomatic reach. It is hard to imagine a decision so blatantly motivated by self-interest while being so profoundly self-harming.

The crucial question now is how we respond.  China and the EU have stepped forward, increasing their voluntary commitments, repudiating President Trump’s decision and assuming the mantle of leadership.  Nations around the world are following suit, as are cities and states across the United States.  Businesses have re-stated their commitment to decarbonisation – ironically, the day before Trump’s decision, shareholders voted that Exxon develop plans compliant with the Paris Agreement’s targets.  In the UK, in the midst of a general election, parties from across the political spectrum have responded to Trump’s decision with reactions ranging from disappointment to outrage. The UK has always provided leadership in this arena, recognising that climate change is a non-partisan issue, and it is one of the few nations with a cross party Climate Change Act.  It is vital for both the planet and the UK that these initial comments are followed by bolder actions and stronger leadership.

Across the world and in the University of Bristol, we are frustrated with the symbolism of Trump’s actions, his speech’s misrepresentation of facts, and his decision’s potential to slow climate action.  But we also recognise that these actions will not stop climate action. The responses of local, national and international leaders, in politics, community groups and businesses, across sectors and across society show that no person, regardless of his position or his nation, can stop the energy revolution. It is too deeply embedded in our politics, economy and ambitions, borne of out of multiple necessities.
Here, in the University of Bristol Cabot Institute, we remain committed to this challenge.  Our University is committed to carbon neutrality, ethical and low-carbon procurement and divestment from fossil fuel-intensive businesses. We have foregrounded Sustainable Futures in our undergraduate teaching.  And in our research, we are investigating improved energy efficiency in everything from computer software, to our homes and our cities.  We are exploring how smart technology enables new forms of transport, community energy and individual action. We are converting nuclear waste into diamond batteries with 5000-year lifetimes, we are leading one of the projects under the Natural Environment Research Council’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction programme and we have just launched new initiatives in wind, tidal, solar and nuclear energy.

Our ambitions are at all scales, from the local to the global.  We continue to work with our Green Capital partners, with a focus on building an informed, diverse, inclusive and powerful movement to become a more sustainable city and region, exemplified by the Green and Black Ambassadors Initiative.  Globally, our projects have been exploring the impact of conflict, climate change and geological hazards on development and the environment; the potential for micro-grids to deliver electricity to isolated communities; new forms of parasite resistance for subsistence farmers; and how geothermal energy can be harnessed in Ethiopia.

This commitment to sustainability builds on five decades of research on our environmental challenges and how to manage them.  The Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group makes among the world’s most accurate measurements of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, and they have shown how rapidly these compounds are accumulating. They are committed to refining those measurements and the modelling methods that allow us to understand why global emissions change. The Bristol Initiative for the Dynamic Global Environment reconstructs past climates and uses those insights to better understand our future; recent projects are building global collaborations to explore the controls on Earth’s temperature and monsoons.  Our glaciologists study sea level rise; our hydrologists study floods and drought; our social scientists study the injustice of climate change and its impact on migration and conflict; and our vets and life scientists are exploring how to improve animal welfare and crop yields on a climate disrupted planet.

Our commitment includes appointing the best and the brightest at understanding these challenges, including Dr Dann Mitchell who joined the University in November.  As co-ordinator of the largest dedicated project in the world on the climate impacts of the Paris Agreement (www.happimip.org), he sums up the Cabot Institute’s collective commitment: “The news of Trump wanting to pull out is incredibly frustrating. Our results are already suggesting more extreme events, such as droughts and heat waves, and serious impacts on society, such as increased human and animal health issues, failures in global crop distributions and bleaching of our coral reefs. I am frustrated that Trump continues to ignore the scientific evidence that has been recognised by his global peers, but that will not dissuade us from doing all we can to understand climate risks… and prevent them.’

Article by Professor Rich Pancost,
Director of the University of Bristol Cabot Institute
Professor of Biogeochemistry
Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Scholar