Science blog

Exploring science at the British Library

16 November 2021

A time for action, not words

Although the dialogues and negotiations of COP26 might be yesterday’s news, the climate crisis is not. The threat remains, and we now face the hard and urgent work of reducing emissions, but also ensuring we can cope with the changes at our doorstep.

Even if there is some good news to be had (subject to the deforestation and methane agreements being implemented, as well as the promised finance materialising and reaching those who most need it), we are still not on the path to limit global temperature increases to 1.5C, which Johan Rockström, the director for the Postsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, described as a planetary boundary, with every fraction of a degree above it being dangerous.

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Climate change protests in Glasgow during COP26, photo taken by Dr. Emma Jenkins

It was alarming to hear the voices of the communities already deeply affected by climate change, with the abiding image of Tuvalu’s foreign minister giving his speech knee-deep in water, and the powerful words of the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, amongst many others. Yet, despite the clearly existential threats already affecting millions of people, the key changes such as phasing out of fossil fuels have still not been achieved.

So, where do we go from here?

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One of Greta Thunberg's tweets after COP26

Climate activists Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot think that what happens next depends on mobilising enough people to make change happen. Nigel Topping, the UN High-Level Climate Champion, emphasises that keeping 1.5 alive requires ‘the dynamism of the non-state actor agenda in driving the ambition loop for accelerated government action’.

We cannot leave our future in the hands of high-level negotiations happening behind closed doors - it is down to all of us to work together to come up with solutions and drive change. And this needs to happen now.

Whether we manage to limit warming to 1.5C or not, climate change is happening, and as well as mitigation, we also need to look at adaptation. So, what will this look like in different places nearest to us?

Are you a Londoner suffering due to increased air pollution? Does this means that you see the new Ultra Emission Zone (ULEZ) as a part of the solution? Or do you live in a UK coastal community affected by flooding and coastal erosion? Perhaps you work in a rural community, and are worried about the increased risks of drought and flooding, and the changes that climate change will bring to rural economy?

What role do all the different stakeholders in your community play as we negotiate the issues ahead of us - from government to business, from landowners to citizens? And, who is responsible for driving adaptation and building resilience?

At the British Library, we have brought together representatives from these stakeholder groups in three special events to help us explore these issues affecting British landscapes and communities.

Our first panel, to be held on 22 November, will discuss the issues arising in the coastal communities. Chaired by Sally Brown, a coastal geomorphologist from Bournemouth University, the panel will bring together –

  • Alan Frampton - Strategy & Policy Manger for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management from the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council
  • Lance Martin - a former member of the Grenadier Guards who is constantly battling coastal erosion endangering his house in Hemsby, on the Norfolk Coast
  • Gustav Milne - an archaeologist who worked for the Museum of London on Thames-side sites since 1973 and has looked at significant coastal change in Essex over the last century
  • Chris Skinner - a visiting researcher at the Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull, working on models to predict how landscapes and flood risk might change due to climate change
  • Claire Tancell - a marine ecologist, who was a member of British Antarctic Survey marine expedition and of the prize-winning Natural England team specifying Marine Protected Areas around the UK coast.

Our second panel, on 24 November, will consider countryside issues and will be chaired by Rick Stafford, a conservationist from Bournemouth University, and the lead author of the recent British Ecological Society report into Nature-Based Solutions. The panel will include –

  • Matthew Doggett - a partner and tenant on a 950 acre, mainly arable, family farm at Barley in North Hertfordshire
  • Jane Findlay - a Landscape Architect, the founding director of Fira and President of the Landscape Institute
  • Emma Hankinson - an ecologist and conservationist, with over 20 years’ experience in nature conservation, currently working as a Project Manager at Rewilding Coombeshead
  • Nicki Whitehouse - a Senior Lecturer in Archaeological Science at the University of Glasgow and Professor of Human-Environment Systems at the University of Plymouth, working on understanding complex relationships between humans, climate, landscapes and ecosystems.

Our third panel, on 26 November, will be focusing on climate change in urban environments. The panel will be chaired by Hannah Fluck, Head of Environmental Research at Historic England, and the panelists will be –

  • Neil Macdonald - a geographer from the University of Liverpool, working on understanding how floods, droughts and storms impact local communities and how they respond and adapt. Neil is the lead researcher on the current UKRI funded Building Climate Resilience Programme
  • Nadja Yang - a DPhil researcher in Systems Engineering at the University of Oxford, where she conducts research on the urban bioeconomy, a concept to help cities become more sustainable and productive in terms of their biological resources
  • Wei Yang - President of the Royal Town Planning Institute for 2021 and Global Planners Network’s representative at UN Habitat Professional Forum, as well as a founder of Wei Yang & Partners, an award-winning master planning firm in London. She is a lead figure in researching, promoting, and implementing green and low-carbon development and 21st Century Garden City approaches worldwide.

Sign up to join us for one or more of the above discussions.

Organised in collaboration with the Institute for the Modelling of Socio-Environmental Transitions (IMSET) at the Bournemouth University