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The reality of climate change: discussed at Newcastle University

December 11th, 2018 | by Patrick Harland
The reality of climate change: discussed at Newcastle University
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Tuesday the 4th December saw the first of the insight advent lectures titled The reality of climate change: increasing extreme weather hazards, given by Professor Hayley J. Fowler of our very own School of Engineering at Newcastle.

During the lecture a few key points were discussed, including the changes observed in regards to extreme weather changes since the pre-industrial era (since 1850) and the link of the increasing global temperature to those changes; the current rate of change and the changes in weather we can expect to see; what is currently being done and the goals that have been set, and why we should still have optimism. The lecture began by detailing an increase in temperature from 1850 to 2017 with the global temperature increase being 1OC higher than pre-industrial change, with the last four years being the warmest on record. Although sounding small, the increase in temperature observed has already led to drastic changes in extreme weather events, and in regular weather. For example, the summer of 2018 showed significant changes in live vegetation across various places across the world, and an increase in intensity of tropical cyclone events, such as the Hurricanes Harvey (2017) and Florence (2018).

The effect has also been observed closer to home with the risk of flash flooding events increasing by 12% in the UK and an increase in weather warnings with thunder and heavy rainfall.  Professor Fowler then explored what would happen in the future if the temperature increases as predicted. Weather models at a higher global temperature show a rainfall increase of up to 40% in both winter and in summer. To display the drastic changes this could cause, a model showing the rainfall of a hurricane both with and without the increase in global temperature showed an increase of 50% to the heaviest raining part on the higher temperature model.

The lecture concluded with a message more of hope and optimism, emphasising that it isn’t too late to slow this temperature increase and reduce the effects of global warming. The two methods discussed were that of adaptation and mitigation, with adaptation focussed on preventing the worst case scenario but finding ways to live with the changes global warming causes, and mitigation focused on reducing emissions and avoiding the worst possible scenarios.

The UK passed the climate change act in 2008, which was one form of mitigation with the main aims of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050. The UK is currently on track to reach this target. The main reasons for optimism that Professor Fowler discussed are an increase of activism in a range of countries pushing world leaders to make changes, with climate financing and green investment having more prevalence, and, again, pushing governments and world leaders to make change.

Fowler quoted David Attenborough, who addressed the UN recently saying, “Climate Change is our greatest threat […] time is running out”. The very final message that we were left with was that we can limit global warming, but we need to act now.

To learn more about what you can do to reduce your effects on the environment, visit Actnow.bot; a website released by the UN to improve ease of information access from the current climate change conference in Poland.

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