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Speaking out on climate change


We are two PhD researchers from the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds.  As active members of both the scientific community and the general public, we have experienced frustration with how inaccessible and overly-technical information relating to climate science can appear to people not working in it, and that there are problems even communicating between different fields of research.

Secondly, the information that people do have access to – for example, from news and non-scientific articles – may not always be evidence-based and accurate.

For those reasons, we started a podcast called The Climate Press, to bring together climate science with public understanding and action. We bring to the show different perspectives and scales of climate science, from atmospheric scales of physical climate change to local scales of impact and adaptation.

We see The Climate Press as a platform to share science-based articles, news about climate change, and interviews with scientists and researchers in a way that communicates with people beyond the academic space that we ourselves, as researchers, find ourselves so comfortably in. We hope to connect communities by bridging scientific and public dialogues and we welcome articles by other researchers.

Capturing young people’s voices

Our pilot episode, recorded in Leeds, draws inspiration from the ongoing student strikes for climate action. We chose to combine the soundbites and enthusiasm of students calling for action with the information and inspiration of researchers and climate scientists supporting that action.

The Climate Press asked young strikers at the Youth Strike for Climate on March 15th about the reasons to participate on the strike. “I think this should be on the news, in 12 years time either we’ll have a future or we won’t” said one, while another said they felt that “Government is not making enough of a priority about climate change”. They also spoke of a lack of information regarding the magnitude of the impacts of climate change: “We know the number, but not the consequences”.

In this episode we talked with Tom Richardson, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, and asked what the number “12 years” refers to.

“According to the special report from The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have 12 years to reduce our carbon emissions if we want to limit the mean warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels. In order to reach that goal, we need to reduce our carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, and by 100% by midcentury”.

Tom emphasised the urgency of taking action on climate change, saying the pledges made by countries as part of the Paris Agreement are not currently enough to meet these ambitious targets. “The way a rise in temperature affects us depends on the ability of the country we live in to adapt to climate change. For instance, in the UK we will expect more frequent and intense heat waves. Also, as temperature rises we will expect an increase in heavy rainfall events that lead to flooding.

“Elsewhere in the world, sea level rise, threatened food security and extreme weather events will make some part of the world very difficult to live in, increasing the number of climate refugees that will be forced to migrate. Since preindustrial times, the planet has already warmed by 1 degree, and the effects are being felt. The more warming occurs, the greater the impact will be, and exceeding 1.5 degrees would significantly increase the risk of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.”

What’s next?

Paloma Trascasa Castro (left) and Bianca van Bavel editing the podcast 

Each episode will aim to tackle a different climate phenomenon, breaking it down for public consumption. Our first full episode of the series will create an audio timeline of climate science history and discovery, paths of public acceptance and trust (or mistrust) of information, as well as transitions from knowledge into action with a focus on how we communicate risk and uncertainty in public-science dialogue today.

In this episode we will be speaking with researchers Kate Sambrook and Astrid Kause from the University of Leeds. We’ll be releasing a new episode every month, so listen out for the next one in May.

And remember, make love, not CO2!

By Bianca van Bavel and Paloma Trascasa Castro


Twitter @TheClimatePress