Climate Week: Research

Friday 18 September 2020

Let’s go greener together to fix the global climate crisis!

Greener Scotland encourages us to become greener for our health, community, country, and the globe. It is currently Scottish Climate Week, and we are taking the opportunity to discuss what the University is doing for the climate. Today, we are presenting climate-related research at the University of St Andrews. Whether focused on the history of heritage sites, human behaviour in catastrophes, or ice-core sediments, they make valuable contributions for our understanding of climate. 

“Loss of coastal heritage sites is inevitable due to climate change – we therefore need to engage with threatened places now” – Tom Dawson

Tom Dawson, Principal Research Fellow in the School of History, and his team have been working with coastal heritage sites for the two past decades. A large number of research projects have brought together academics and local communities to engage with sites before they are lost. The collaborations empower communities to save the stories of their heritage while raising awareness of how climate change, driven by human activity, threatens both past and present. 

As we learn from the past, we also learn from fiction. Dennis Kelly’s television series Utopia (2013-14) depicts an earth emptied of most human inhabitants. Sam Haddow, School of English, explores its starkly beautiful visions of ecological catastrophe and apocalypse. In these he finds arguments that trace our most destructive habits – including resource exploitation, water contamination and the extermination of nonhuman species – to our political and spiritual philosophies as much as our ever accelerating numbers. 

“Climate change will deplete fish stocks in West and Central Africa – sustainable fisheries management is non-negotiable” –  Ife Okafor-Yarwood

Climate justice acknowledges that those contributing less to climate change are most affected by it. Ife Okafor-Yarwood, Lecturer at the School of Geography and Sustainable Development, investigates how people in coastal communities in West and Central Africa responds to depleting fisheries. With a critical lens, Okafor-Yarwood gives us insight into the consequences of climate change – vulnerability, conflict, and instability, which combined undermines regional security.

 “The last time CO2 was this high there were beech trees on Antarctica” – James Rae

Climate change is happening. Dr James Rae’s group in Earth & Environmental Sciences stress that we need to reduce our carbon emissions now. By looking at changes in CO2 from geological archives, including ice cores, fossils, and sediments, Dr Rae’s research underlines that CO2 is the primary knob of Earth’s climate. To prevent catastrophic further changes to our climate, carbon emissions need to reduce now. 

Preserving natural environments can help to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. Knowledge about how we interact with these environments is, therefore, crucial. Dr Katy Roucoux and Dr Ian Lawson’s team in Geography and Sustainable Development investigates how tropical peatlands captures and stores large amounts of carbon, and how indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon and central Congo basin interact with them. Their findings help inform regional and national government on how important the peatlands are for the ecosystem, communities, and climate mitigation. Their research guides governmental decision-making on how to manage and protect them.

Knowledge, governmental structure, and change of behaviour are some of the key aspects of climate change mitigation. These are just a few research projects that enlighten us about climate emergency and supports to become greener. While Climate Week 2020 ends in just a few days, the work of our students, community, and researchers for a green future continues.  



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