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All in for the big climate chat!


The Priestley Centre wants to encourage conversation about climate change for Green GB Week (15-19 October 2018) – and it is making sure that the public can get involved in as many ways as possible.

The Centre is asking people to tweet, talk, chat to researchers, ask questions, give their views and come along to events as part of the week of activities on tackling climate change, and it is linking up with other universities, partners and cities to spread the message.

Crucially, researchers will be listening as much as talking, and the public’s views will have their own “climate platform” – in 2m high illuminated letters on the Platform Building above Leeds station.

The University of Leeds is collaborating with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) at the University of York, Newcastle University and Tyndall Manchester to deliver Climate Chats (Monday 15 October), a public engagement session using the arts to facilitate conversations. The “Chats” take place at Leeds Station, Parliament Street in York, Newcastle’s Northumberland Street and Manchester Museum and involve poetry, singing, music, drawing and the chance to meet climate researchers informally.

The Climate Chats will also be used to conduct a survey of attitudes to climate solutions. Originally created by Priestley Centre researchers for Earth Day 2017 , the short survey has subsequently used as a public engagement tool for the Ingenious project led by James Mckay of Energy Leeds to envisage a zero carbon future. It is also available online (until Tuesday 16 October 16.00).

Accessible public events

As part of the survey, respondents are asked what question they would like answered about climate change. These will be collected from the Climate Chats in all four cities and put to a panel of climate scientists at a special Climate Question Time event in Leeds Civic Hall’s Council Chamber (Thursday 18 October, 19.00-20.30).

The event will be introduced by ITV Calendar News presenter Christine Talbot and chaired by Prof Andy Gouldson, Chair of Leeds Climate Commission and deputy chair of the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy. Councillor James Lewis, deputy leader of Leeds City Council, who has the climate change and energy portfolio, will also be on the panel.

The Climate Question Time will also be livestreamed on the University of Leeds YouTube channel and available to view afterwards. Livestreaming is part of the Priestley Centre’s commitment, whenever technically possible, to make its climate change events widely accessible, along with the choice of a city centre venue.

The keynote event is one of two livestreamed public events being put on in Leeds for Green GB Week; the other is a free lunchtime lecture called Unfrozen: Reports from the Ice, at Opera North’s Howard Assembly Room (Friday 19 October 12.30-13.30). As well as University of Leeds researchers Dr Christian Maerz and Dr Jenine McCutcheon talking about their own experiences, the event includes a live link up with the British Antarctic Survey research station at Rothera.

Research in Greenland on the Black and Bloom project will feature in Unfrozen (Friday 19 October) 

Taking on the ‘elephant in the room’

Climate change has frequently been referred to as “the elephant in the room” with people unsure or worried about how to talk about it, even though concern levels are high. To address that, the NERC funded Climate Communication Project, which is led by Priestley Centre director Professor Piers Forster, has commissioned a short film from YouTuber ClimateAdam. Called  How (Not) to Talk About Climate Change, the lighthearted  film co-stars Dr Adam Corner, research director of Climate Outreach, and will be shown on Leeds Big Screen in Millennium Square throughout the week.

Dr Adam Corner (above left) and ClimateAdam (Dr Adam Levy, right) from How (Not) to Talk About Climate Change

A social media campaign linked to an art installation in Leeds is also being used to encourage people to communicate their feelings about climate change. The #MyClimate campaign on Twitter, being run by the Priestley Centre, is asking people to respond to the question, “What does climate change mean to you?” in words of nine characters or less (or a short phrase of very small words). The results will appear in huge lit-up letters on the Platform Building above Leeds Station using the Rainbow Platform Enlighten Project installation devised for Leeds Light Night.

Leeds researcher Dr Chris Smith, whose climate model has been used for the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C – due to be published on Monday 8 October – has also taken on the daunting task of summarising the report’s headline findings in words of nine characters, to run on the “Climate Platform”.

The activities have pulled together a broad range of partners, including Leeds Climate Commission and the Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP), which are jointly hosting the Climate Question Time with the Priestley International Centre for Climate.   Opera North and Leeds City Council are providing the venues for the public events, while LeedsBID and Bruntwood have sponsored the installation on Platform.